Monday, 20 October 2014

Langdale Underground. Hodge Close and Cathedral Cave Arches.

Sunday was not so nice a day weather wise in the Lakes but we knew that on Friday heading off. It was supposed to be a day of intermittent drizzle and low clouds on the higher hills, again conditions that can make most of upland Scotland seem bleak and utterly miserable but just turns the lower bumpy hills in the Lakes into a pastel misty wonderland. Secretly, I actually enjoy conditions like this down here sometimes as it means my suggestions get listened to, where they wouldn't otherwise, in company usually fixated on high level mountain bagging.
  With the higher hill groups buried under clag and drizzle however I persuaded the team to trust me to lead them like the white rabbit in Alice into an underground wonderland via a network of scenic paths and rural trails. I had been doing my homework on the internet and the few clues and photos I'd seen when I typed in "Caving in Langdale" whetted my appetite for thinking out the box. Something I've always been known for since my earliest trips away. I like a wide variety of outdoor pursuits.

 "He's not right in the head that guy!" has been muttered several times in the past by reluctant mountaineers following in my wake, embarrassed by the indignity of embracing pursuits like crawling down random holes in the ground, mingling with ramblers, or trying out a juvenile DIY death slide down a slope on an old car tyre with obvious relish and no sense of shame. In short I've never grown up and don't intend to start anytime soon.
We piled into two cars and drove a short distance from our hut to Little Langdale before parking near Oxen Fell for a ramble. A few grumbles later and some more persuasion saw us in prime Beatrix Potter territory where the three photos above were taken. Grasmere is just over the hill. As a keen amateur photographer I love walks like this in chocolate box scenery but it was not to everyone's taste and the troops were soon muttering dark rebellion after passing a few pensioners with knobbly waking sticks and an invalid in a wheelchair with knobbly knees.
"Aw C,mon. We're mountain men!" They complained.  "Where are you taking us now!"
"Izzy wizzy. Let's get bizzy." I replied cryptically, pinching Sooty's line, uttered whenever he waved his wand and performed a magical illusion, with a mans hand up his bottom. Well,  I think it was his wand.
And behold... We arrived at the extensive slate quarries of Tilberthwaite and Hodge Close Quarry.
With steep bare cliffs, long tunnels, some mild scrambling, and even serious bolted climbing routes up the walls we left the ramblers behind and entered the realm of mole men.
Holes within holes. Surrounded by sheer cliffs and a vertical environment the troops were much happier and smiles replaced the frowns.

 Hodge Close Quarry was even better than expected and was reached down a narrow winding path into a deep stone trench containing a lower mini forest which was then traversed to the far end where several carved out arches led at last to a deep and dark reflective pool. This was the type of environment I played in all the time growing up, trying to catch illusive newts and losing a few friends occasionally in the process before they were filled in as being too dangerous for children. Important lesson learned early I counted all my mole men to make sure we left the quarry with the same number.
The main arches of Hodge Close Quarry. Troops still all accounted for.
Walking along the floor of the trench to the first of the arches. An amazing place and even better than expected. A good wet or murky day alternative.
Next up came the tunnels and caverns of Catherdral Quarry, a short distance away. The level of slate and copper mining in this area is impressive.
This first tunnel ran out after a short time but I was saving the main event for the grand finale.
The wonderland of Cathedral Quarry itself with its tunnels running a few hundred metres through the hillside like holes in Swiss cheese.
The main chamber.
View out to the sky above.
Mole men in the tunnels.
Alex looking for climbing routes up this pillar.
An entertaining half day if its wet or murky high up and a great end to our two day trip to the Lakes.
I like the Lake District. So much to do in bad weather. I used to own the well known yellow glove puppet as a nipper and got fairly good at all the gestures with the wand. Never liked Sweep for some reason and buried him in the garden. Well, I think it was Sweep... it was so long ago. Did Sweep have a tail and bark a lot in an irritating manner?
Yin and yang...light and dark... it's all good.



The Glebe Blog said...

Some fantastic pictures on this post Bob.
One of the great joys of the Lake District I think. They've been mining and quarrying in the lakes for around 800 years.
I was lucky enough to visit the Keswick Mining Museum before it closed. Anything regarding mining and quarrying in Cumbria, Ian Tyler knew it all. He even knew most of the Fife pits where my uncles worked. Seems he's enjoying writing books and guiding walks these days. Maybe there's a another ramblers trip in the offing.
Very enjoyable post Bob.
P.S Sooty and Sweep are alive and well on planet Amazon

Kay G. said...

I have wanted to go the Lake District since I was a kid. I studied Beatrix Potter's drawings so much, I recognized the flowers when I first saw them in England as an adult!
MY GOD, what wonderful photos you have here... I love the chocolate box scenery as much as I love the nature taking over the quarry areas. That photo of you standing next to the water with the rocks of stone and the changing leaves of the trees? That should be a post card, just saying.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim,
Yes, there are so many alternative things to do down there but part of that is the money poured into the place by tourists and rich locals. Even the smaller towns have loads of climbing shops,a variety of good pubs,museums and cinemas if it's really bad weather. Highland Scotland in wet weather is a grim desert by comparison but we cut down all our natural forests centuries ago and replaced people in the glens with sheep. I get a glimpse of what Scotland might have looked like when I've visited Ireland where people still live on the land in numbers.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
Yes, it's a very pretty area and the mountains have a different character all their own. I read somewhere that Beatrix Potter was a skilled botanist and her drawings stand up against the best Victorian plant illustrators of the day.
It's not me but my handsome friend John in the photo. I never take a selfie as I like to stay in the background.

Carol said...

Hell you got a lot better photos than we did on our visit last year - it was a similar murky day too! Not been through those Cathedral Quarry tunnels but I'd like to - I'll have to look them up!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Catherdral Quarry and tunnels are worth a look. There's not that much on the internet about them and we climbed far too high at first before we found the entrance so I've not given precise details of where to find it as they still seems to be not that well known generally.

Carol said...

I'll give it a google...