Fairfield Horseshoe with Various Digressions

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Rydal Park. Nab Scar and Heron Pike on the left, Low Pike on the right.

Much as I’m enjoying all of these peak-bagging days out in the Lakes, you may have noticed that I’m finding the write-ups a bit tricky. My local rambles often throw up something in the way of flora or fauna which I can waffle on about for a bit, but I’m finding it hard to know what to say about these box-ticking excursions without endlessly repeating myself.

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A Horse-chestnut festooned with candles in Rydal Park.

So, this rather lovely trot around the Fairfield Horseshoe is a good case in point. Let’s get the usual nonsense out of the way from the off….

Start: pretty early by my recent standards, but hardly Alpine.

Parking: free! Because even Ambleside has free parking, if you’re there reasonably early and you’re prepared to walk just a little bit further.

Weather: windy, obviously. Started bright and sunny, even got a bit warm climbing Nab Scar. Cloud came in from the South, so that when I was on Fairfield the sun was still shining on Helvellyn, but I wasn’t benefitting from that sunshine. Stayed cloudy for a while, then brightened up again towards the end of the walk.

Stops: yes, I realise that I can be a bit obsessed with my hot cordial breaks. One of the ironies of this game is that the best bits of a day’s walking are often the bits when you aren’t walking. So: found a nice spot on Rydal Fell, looking up towards Great Rigg and Fairfield; then a not very sheltered, rocky perch on Fairfield which at least had good views; and then, just below the top of High Pike, a little hollow which had some protection from the wind, but also sun and a cracking view.

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The Grot and Rydal Beck Lower Falls.

There are, of course, interesting things to be said about Rydal Hall, and its Thomas Mawson designed gardens, and The Grot. However, Rydal Hall has already featured in several posts, so I’d definitely be repeating myself.

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Rydal Hall.
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Art in the garden.

I suspect that there was lots of artwork dotted about the gardens and in the surrounding woods and if I hadn’t been in a hurry they would no doubt have given me lots more grist for my mill.

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From Nab Scar. Rydal Water and Grasmere. Coniston and Langdale Fells.

But I had the steep path on Nab Scar to climb, and I’m glad that I did, because as I climbed the views got progressively bigger and better.

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Rydale Water and Loughrigg – you can pick out the ‘cave’ (former mine) above the woods in the centre of the picture.

I was talking to a colleague recently about, amongst other things, my recent spate of Wainwright related activity, and my currently-on-hold exploration of the Lune Catchment area and about the fact that the lack of a protracted warm spell had meant that I hadn’t been out swimming as yet this spring (I have since).

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Wansfell Pike and Windermere from Nab Scar.

Which prompted N to tell me that this summer she plans to cycle between the Lakes, in a single trip over three days, and swim in each one. I was very taken with this idea, and have frequently found myself drawn back to thinking about the logistics of such a trip and about a potential walking route which would visit each of the lakes.

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Coniston Fells, Langdale Fells, Loughrigg, Silver How and Grasmere, from Nab Scar.

Now, I have a bit of a book buying habit, and books accrue in our house at a rate far exceeding my capacity to read them. This applies to quite a wide variety of books, but is particularly true of books about walking and especially so of books about walking in the Lake District. So, could I find, amongst all the neglected tomes, a book about a route which takes in all of the Lakes?

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The ridge ahead: Heron Pike from Nab Scar.

Of course I could. In fact, so far I’ve found two.

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The ridge ahead: Rydal Fell, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag and Dove Crag from Heron Pike.

‘The Ancient Ways of Lakeland’ by Richard Sale and Arthur Lees, describes just such a route. It has the subtitle ‘A circular route for walkers’. Marvellous. Except it isn’t. It’s a circular route with little diversions, heading off to take in awkward outliers like Bassenthwaite Lake, Crummock Water, Loweswater, Grasmere and Rydal Water. And since the route is broken down into sections, each of which has an alternative return route, you could argue that it gives two different possible circuits around the Lakes.

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The ridge ahead: Great Rigg, Fairfield and Hart Crag from Rydal Fell.

Meanwhile Ronald Turnbull’s ‘Big Days in Lakeland’ has a chapter on a walk which visits some of the Lakes. He gets around the Bassenthwaite problem, by just omitting it. Likewise Brother’s Water (which isn’t on Sale and Lees route either). This being Ronald Turnbull (of ‘The Book of the Bivvy’ fame) there are some eccentricities. He has the brilliant idea of combining the walk with a trip on the Lake Steamers, wherever they are available. But then describes walking the route in February when the only boat running is the ferry across Windermere. His low-level route takes in Levers Hawse. And Coledale Hause. Oh, and Helvellyn and Striding Edge.

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Looking back: Heron Pike and the Coniston Fells from Rydal Fell.

He’s made of sterner stuff than me. I’m not sure I could cope with winter bivvies. But I do like the look of his route (or substantial bits of it anyway). I’ve stored that idea away for future reference and shall probably enjoy thinking about it from time to time.

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The ridge ahead: Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Dove Crag.

Of course, I’d want to devise my own route. I think I would want to include some of my favourite tarns too. Since you’re not supposed to swim in Thirlmere, you could substitute Harrop Tarn. Likewise Small Water for Haweswater. But what about Ennerdale Water?

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Looking back to Rydal Fell and Heron Pike. Windermere, Esthwaite Water, Coniston Water and Grasmere all in view.

I have a few of these ideas for long walks, or exploratory projects mentally filed away.

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From Fairfield: Cofa Pike and St. Sunday Crag.

Of course, I haven’t finished the Wainwright’s yet, although I’m making good progress. (Just don’t mention the Western Fells). And I ran out of steam a bit with the Birketts. And the Lune Catchment project was doomed to failure from the off, since how can you possibly track down all of the rills and trickles which drain a water-shed?

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From Fairfield: Dollywaggon Pike, Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn and Striding Edge.

But frankly, it’s the anticipation as much as anything which keeps my happy.

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The ridge ahead: Hart Crag.

The worrying prospect with the Wainwrights is that sometime next year, or perhaps the year after, I will actually finish and then I shall be needing a fresh idea to give me impetus.

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Looking back to Heron Pike and Great Rigg.

Turnbull suggests a slow version of bagging the Wainwrights: only counting the ones you’ve slept the night on. I’ve camped on Tarn Crag (the Longsleddale one) and on Black Combe (but that’s only an Outlying Fell). I bivvied on Bowfell, with Andy, many, many moons ago. And, more recently, on Skiddaw and on Latrigg. (The latter so recently that it hasn’t appeared on the blog yet. Next post I think.)

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A panorama from much the same spot.

So, on that basis, four down and two hundred and ten to go. Might take me a while!

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Dove Crag from Hart Crag.

Then there’s all the Tarns to bag – using either the Nuttall’s excellent guides or the venerable Heaton Cooper one. Or both. Could make that a slow affair too by swimming in each of them before it counts.

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The long broad descent ridge.

So, plenty still to go at. A cheery thought!

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Gradually narrows! High Pike and Windermere.

In the meantime, I shall continue to enjoy the straightforward version of just visiting each of the Wainwrights, without any stipulation about sleeping on, parascending from, skiing on a single ski down, taking a geological sample of….each summit.

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Low Pike and Windermere from High Pike.
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Scandale from Brock Crags. Little Hart Crag on the horizon.

One part of that process which I’m really enjoying is seeing fells from several different directions in relatively quick succession: “Oh look – there’s Little Hart Crag again. I was near there just a couple of weeks ago.” In the past, when I’ve been in the southern Lakes at least, I’ve been on the lookout for views of Arnside Knott or Clougha Pike. Now, I’m keen to find Lingmoor, or Grasmoor, or Harrison Stickle, or Helm Crag etc in the view because I was on that summit only recently.

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Windermere and Ambleside from Low Sweden Coppice.

Oh, and the Fairfield Horseshoe? Highly enjoyable.

So, finally, some hike stats: MapMyWalk gives 11 miles and 960m of ascent. However, you can see from the straight line most of the way down from High Pike, that I forgot to restart the app after pausing it for a stop. Last time out it gave 14 miles and 957m of ascent. Can’t fault the consistency where the ascent is concerned! That last trip was in very different conditions, and I walked it widdershins, anti-clockwise, whereas I tackled it in the opposite direction this time.

Wainwrights: Nab Scar, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Dove Crag, High Pike, Low Pike.

Birketts: the same with the addition of Rydal Fell.

Fairfield Horseshoe with Various Digressions

9 thoughts on “Fairfield Horseshoe with Various Digressions

  1. Geordiemunro says:

    Projects doomed to fail brought to mind the idea (which I’m sure was yours) of flying a kite from the top of every Munro.

    In a similar vein I have a friend who is climbing the Tumps (whose definition I always forget, although there are thousands of them). He said that the main attraction for him was the fact that he actually had no realistic prospect of ever completing them. The doing was far more satisfying than the finishing.

      1. beatingthebounds says:

        ‘The doing was far more satisfying than the finishing.’
        Amen to that!
        The Munro kite flying thing arose when we spent New Year in Coire Fionnaraich bothy. My brother had bought me a stunter for Christmas, so of course, I brought it with me. I know that I flew it on the slopes of Sgorr Ruadh (not at the top), but that was where I hatched the plan. Then for years I carried a little pocket kite in the bottom of my rucksack – I did try flying it on a couple of Munros, but there was always so much turbulence that I didn’t have much success. I wonder what I’ve done with it? I think it’s last outing was probably when I walked part of Hadrian’s Wall with A and B, when they were pretty young, when I also carried a beanbag type thing for catching, a pack of cards and a cloth frisbee. We also once took plastic sledges up Swinside near Haweswater which was great fun until Little S’s blew away.

  2. Great post! I tend to focus on much smaller plans, individual walks to take in odd paths and hills I’ve never been up or short backpacking routes and wild camps

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Ha – I can’t help myself, my plans are always grandiose. Lately, it’s been the book I’m going to write when I retire and the walks I will do first to facilitate the writing of it. Hopefully, without clumsy sentences like that last one!

  3. Pretty sure that you’ll finish the Wainwrights before I do, even though I’m on 185. I might get another 4 when I’m up in the summer but that could be me for the year!! I enjoyed the Fairfield horseshoe when I did it, but think Coledale or Newlands is a better round. And to finish well it would be remiss not to mention the Western fells as you told us not to!!

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Ah! Still haven’t ventured into the Western Fells this year! I’m almost up to half your total. All things being equal, I really ought to finish before you, given my geographical advantage!

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Thank you! Longer posts like this are likely to be a rarity, but every now and again I find myself waffling on a bit!

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