When, last January, in the first flush of enthusiasm for my new assault on the Wainwrights, I tackled the Coniston Fells in less than optimal weather conditions, I chose an inefficient route taking in the three central fells of the range and leaving three scattered outliers – Dow Crag, Grey Friar and Great Carrs. With hindsight, I think that this is no bad thing, since it gives me an excuse for more walks in the area.
So, this mid-November Saturday found me parked on the roadside by Tarn Beck, just outside Seathwaite in the Duddon Valley.
It was a glorious morning, and very quiet in Seathwaite, in stark contrast to what I might have expected on the Coniston side of the hills.
Harter Fell tended to dominate the views on this walk and I took lots of photographs of it, many of which, but by no means all, have made it into this post.
The Coniston Fells are liberally supplied with crags and hows and pikes and this western side is no exception. The path climbs between Tongue House Close and Tongue House High Close, just right of centre in the photo above.
The path I had chosen fell away slightly leftwards here, towards those shaded crags on the slopes of Troutal Fell, the south-west arm of Grey Friar. Between here and those crags, the path crosses Tarn Beck. There’s no footbridge marked on the map, but this is the busy, touristy Lake District – there’ll be a bridge surely?
The ground descended very gently towards Tarn Beck and was quite boggy. When I reached the stream…
…it was to discover that there is no bridge. What’s more the stream was large and deep and fast-flowing.
It was so sunny at this point that I actually contemplated a swim, but sanity prevailed, in part because of how fast the stream was running. I hate to think how cold the water would have been.
Since I clearly couldn’t cross Tarn Beck without a dip, I followed it instead and then cut up to the dam of Seathwaite Tarn…
I paused on the dam to take several photos of a lone Goosander, none of which came out very well.
The early part of the steady climb away from the tarn was enlivened by the presence of numerous brightly coloured waxcaps…
Naturally, I took loads of pictures, but I’ve restricted myself to just two here.
In my mind, Dow Crag is always associated with the eponymous crag above Goat Water, with the south ridge over Brown Pike and Buck Pike and with Easy Gully, which is far from easy and which I haven’t ascended for many, many moons. It was good to see it from this less familiar perspective.
Sadly, I arrived at the summit cairn on Grey Friar at the same time as the low cloud brought by the encroaching weather front. I was lucky to still have some views, but not the spectacular views I might have expected given the open blue skies at the start of the walk. In addition, the temperature had dropped appreciably and, without the warming sunshine, it now felt very much like mid-November in the hills.
I found a sheltered spot for a quick drink and a snack. Truth be told, as usual, I had an overly ambitious plan B which involved climbing the main ridge and completing a horseshoe round to Dow Crag. It was clear though that I didn’t have the daylight hours left for that route, or the weather to make the extra effort worthwhile.
So, I beat a hasty retreat, retracing my ascent route initially, before following a track down, which gave very easy walking and which is presumably a remnant of the construction of the Seathwaite Tarn dam.
Presumably due to the lack of retail outlets and other tourist attractions, the lovely Duddon Valley often seems to be relatively quiet; I saw very few other walkers on this outing. When I get around to ticking-off Dow Crag I think I shall have to do it from this side for a change.
August Bank Holiday Monday, the final day of my long, eventful summer break, and TBH was keen to get out and climb a hill. We settled on Blencathra. We were very lucky and managed to find street parking in Threlkeld.
The sun shone intermittently and it was even quite warm for a while. We were heading around the base of the hill, aiming for Sharp Edge, but when we reached Scaley Beck there was a steep little rock step to negotiate, down into the beck and I didn’t like the look of it, so we turned back for Doddick Fell instead.
We’d not climbed far up Doddick Fell when some unforecast drizzle materialised. Just after we’d stopped for lunch!
Doddick Fell turned out to be a marvellous route up Blencathra. I suspect all of the many ridges are worth a look.
The views from Blencathra were superb. What’s-more, it wasn’t busy at all.
We’d had another spell of sunny weather, but, as we started to descend, a band of ominous black clouds swept in from the East.
It was very dramatic and I took no end of photos of Clough Head and the Dodds as the black cloud breezed over them.
We took the Blease Fell path down – one I knew to be easy-angled, pleasant walking.
Last time I was up Blencathra, I was in the cloud the entire time, so this was a very welcome change.
I enticed B out for a walk using the lure of Tongue Pot; he’s been campaigning for a return ever since his first visit, which was five summers ago. How time flies! My side of the deal was that he had to climb a hill with me first. We parked on the big section of grass verge just west of Brotherikeld Farm (you can make out the parked cars in the photo above) and then set off toward the Hardknott Pass, soon leaving the road for the path which cuts across to the remains of the Roman Fort.
B has visited the fort once before, when we climbed Harter Fell with old friend X-Ray and came down via Horsehow Crags and Demming Crag (Birketts which needed ticking off, of course), which, astonishingly, was twelve summers ago. How time flies!
We left the fort on a path heading towards the pass – I guess the old Roman road.
By the time we hit the road, it was very hot. Fortunately, from the top of the pass it was only a very short climb to the Birkett of Border End, which turned out to be one of those Birketts which is well worth a visit, with superb views and nobody else about.
As we dropped away from the top of Border End I noticed this moth on the ground.
I think it’s a Garden Tiger, although it’s quite a way from any gardens. The wings usually seem to look more cream than yellow and the spots can vary in shape, but the general pattern looks right.
Since the moth was dead, I could and should have looked at the underwings which should have been a spectacular red, but unfortunately that didn’t occur to me at the time.
I’d read that Border End has a good view of Eskdale Needle, and it does, although you may have to open a flickr copy of the photo above and zoom it to see it. One day I’ll have to come this way and drop down to have a proper look.
The tarn on Hard Knott was choked with reeds and looked extremely shallow, I soon dismissed any idea I’d had of an early dip there.
We diverted off the path to take in the rocky knoll of Yew Bank, another Birkett (and a Tump and a Synge apparently). Dropping slightly below the summit gave absolutely superb views of the hills and crags around Upper Eskdale and of the Esk and Lingcove Beck.
When we reached Lingcove Beck we immediately came upon an inviting looking pool.
Me made our way down the beck, moving from pool to pool, B looking for places to jump in, whilst I settled for a swim. I think we found around five good spots. I thought Andy and I had made a pretty thorough exploration of the swimming possibilities of both the Esk and Lingcove Beck, but I don’t remember these delightful pools.
Tongue Pot was busy, busier than it looks here. I jumped in from the wimps side, by the tree on the right, but B had only one thing in mind: the mega-leap having not done it five years ago.
No qualms this time.
Once he’d done it a few times, all that remained was the pleasant walk down the valley back to the car.
A couple of weeks after my last outing, so mid-June, and I was out relatively early and parked in the small, free car-park in the hamlet of Hartsop. The car-park was already filling up despite the early hour. The earlyish start and my choice of route – short and not too far from home – were due to my plans for the afternoon.
After a very grey start, the clouds began to break-up and the sun could poke through, making for some glorious views.
Once the sun appeared I started to see a number of what I thought were day-flying moths. In flight, they looked quite dark, and I thought they might be Chimney Sweeper moths, or at least something similar. But then I noticed one land and open it’s wings…
They were Mountain Ringlets! Not the most pre-possessing butterfly, I’ll admit, but very exciting none-the-less. In England, they are only found in the Lake District and are quite elusive. In many years of walking in the Lakes, I’ve never seen them before. Actually, this wasn’t the first one I saw, or attempted to photograph that morning. Despite the fact that the grass was very short, when they dropped down into it they seemed to disappear, and if I approached, hoping to spot them and get a photo, they were shy and would fly-off.
I was lucky with the change in the weather:
“The adults are highly active only in bright sunshine but can be disturbed from the ground even in quite dull weather. They keep low to the ground in short flights, pausing regularly to bask amongst grass tussocks or feed on the flowers of Tormentil or Heath Bedstraw.”
There was lots of Bedstraw flowering, but my efforts to photograph the tiny white flowers weren’t very successful. I assumed that I would continue to see Mountain Ringlets during the rest of the walk, but I didn’t – they were prolific around the summit of Hartsop Dodd, but after that, no more.
Caudale Moor, John Bell’s Banner, Stony Cove Pike – are there any other hills in the Lakes which glory in three different titles? I always think of it as Stony Cove Pike whereas Wainwright goes with Caudale Moor. Although I’ve climbed it many times over the years, it has often been from the Kirkstone Pass, when time has been short. I’ve never had a poke around Caudale Quarry, or climbed any of the ridges which rise on the Troutbeck side, so plenty of scope for further exploration.
I was supposed to be in a hurry, but the long steady climb to Stony Cove Pike followed a ramshackle drystone wall, perfect territory for Wheatears. I took lots of photos, all of females oddly, of which this was my favourite…
The sun had disappeared behind a cloud again, so the light wasn’t ideal, but by now I was in full ‘birding’ mode. There were Crows, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks about too to try to capture, although generally not as close at hand as the Wheatears.
Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks will all sing in flight. I think that this songster was a Skylark…
This was definitely a Skylark, the crest is the giveaway, unusually singing from a perch.
The sun was shining again, so I sat on the summit to enjoy the views and eat my lunch.
I had half-planned to include Thornthwaite Crag on my circuit, but the dawdling I been doing, photographing butterflies and birds, did not fit well with my plans so I took the lazy option, a small path which climbed very easily onto the ridge for Grey Crag.
I’d run out of water, but found a tiny rivulet crossing the slopes here and refilled my bottle. For my birthday, TBH had bought me a water bottle which includes a filter….
…the chunky white cylinder you can see inside the bottle. To be fair, I’ve been drinking water from Lake District streams with no ill effects for years, but the filter does give some added peace of mind.
The wind had really picked-up, and I had to stop to shove on an extra layer.
Some hike stats: around 6 miles and 700m of climbing according to MapMyWalk.
Three Wainwrights: Hartsop Dodd, Caudale Moor, Grey Crag.
My plans for the afternoon? To settle down in front of the googlebox and watch Leicester Tigers trounce Saracens in the Premiership Final. It was a bit tense for a while there, but the result came out right in the end.
An early start to get one of the few parking spaces by the church in Kentmere. It had been raining, but was clearing rapidly.
It was another windy day, but sunny, and warm if you could get out of the wind.
These days I rarely take my camera with me, but with less warm gear in my bag, regrettably as it turned out, I could fit it in on this occasion. I’m beginning to think I shouldn’t bother. The photos I took of Butterwort flowers weren’t in focus, and I prefer my phone’s camera’s pictures of the scenery. So where possible that’s what I’ve used here.
The problem with using both is that that seems to confuse Flickr so that the pictures end up out of sequence. I’ve tried to put these in order, but I’m not sure I have it completely right.
Anyway, it’s a cracking route, which I’ve done many times before, although I think the last time I did the route in its entirety would be over twenty years ago when I was preparing for the London Marathon and I ran it, in about three and a half hours if memory serves me right. I didn’t include Thornthwaite Crag or High Street back then. This time it took me more than twice as long, but I wasn’t in a hurry.
I was very taken by the top of Ill Bell with its many tidy cairns and superb views. Ill Bell has a steep north-east ridge which I keep promising myself I will climb. Next time.
I have a real affection for Thornthwaite Crag, I think it’s at least partly to do with the huge architectural cairn. The view’s pretty good too…
I sat here for quite some time, whilst a few parties came through from various directions.
Once you’ve made it to Thornthwaite Crag all of the hard work is behind you. Its a long, steady plod up to High Street and then it’s nearly all downhill. Well, aside from the steady climb onto Harter Fell.
Unlike nearby Small Water, I’ve yet to swim in Blea Water, something I shall have to rectify. The crags at the back of the tarns are renowned for the alpine species which cling on in that remote, inaccessible locality.
I should warn you that most of the remaining photos, well, a lot of them anyway, are of Yoke, Ill Bell and Froswick from various vantage points. I make no apologies, I think they looked magnificent.
Somewhere on the way down I lost the path completely. I thought for a while I would end up traipsing through acres of bracken, but actually my route worked out well and I just cut a corner.
As I got down towards the valley it was actually quite hot, a novelty after a very cold spring.
Now, I just needed to cross some flower-filled and boulder-strewn meadows back to the village and my car.
MapMyWalk gives about 13½ miles and 1074m of ascent. Previous experience would suggest that the latter will be an underestimate, but I can’t be bothered to check!
I woke up at around five, with an urgent need to get out out of my bivvy and sleeping bags. Once out, despite the many layers I was wearing, I began to shiver quite violently. I decided that the best thing to do would be to get moving, so hastily packed up.
Sleeping on the ground on a hilltop might not lead to a perfect, restful night, but it does have its compensations, chief among them being a hilltop view when the sun rises.
It was spitting with rain, and still a bit breezy, but I didn’t get far before I was thoroughly warmed-up and needed to stop and rethink my layers. It felt a bit odd to be stripping-down when it was raining on me, albeit only in a very half-hearted fashion.
Having already abandoned my ambitious plans to romp home over the Dodds, Helvellyn, Fairfield etc, it seemed logical to continue upwards from Latrigg and climb Skiddaw and its satellites. After all, I could just as well catch the 555 from Keswick as from Grasmere or Ambleside.
These days, I’m generally happy to be going uphill. I’ve long since rid myself of the illusion that I can climb hills quickly, so I just settle into a steady plod which feels comfortable. On the broad motorway which sweeps up the slopes of Skiddaw, I just couldn’t seem to find that tempo, however many rest stops I threw in. I shouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that Purgatory consists of an endless slope on just such a broad, stony featureless track. Or perhaps I was just tired after the exertions of the day before? I half contemplated turning back, but fortunately, I eventually reached the point where the angle eased and I could strike-off the main path for Lonscale Fell.
There was still plenty of climbing to do, but the gradient was more conducive, or I’d had a second-wind, or both, or something else; whatever it was, the slow-plod mode was working just fine again. It was still very early, but I had seen a couple of other walkers, both of whom had a ‘steady-plod mode’ which was at least twice the speed of mine.
On my unhurried ascent of Skiddaw, I met a guy coming the other way who was wrapped up in winter gear: big down jacket, cagoule, warm hat as well as hoods, many layers etc. It was pretty windy at this point, but his attire seemed completely over the top.
“You’ll be the second person up there today”, he greeted me, with a broad grin.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the two people who had overtaken me on my way up, or the couple I’d just seen coming down ahead of him, since he seemed inordinately chuffed with his supposed status as ‘first summiteer of the day’.
When I reached the long summit ridge it became immediately clear why the down jacket, cagoule etc had been necessary – it was ridiculously windy up there. I was soon fighting with my own cag, trying to get my arm into a wildly flapping second sleeve. I even put my balaclava back on. It was the kind of wind which has you staggering about and leaning onto the wind at a weird angle in an effort to stay upright.
These perhaps weren’t the windiest conditions I’d encountered this year, but they were the most striking, because as soon as I left the top, the wind abated considerably, leaving off just as suddenly as it had started when I reached the ridge.
On the way down the very steep and loose path towards Carl Side, I met a couple of ladies going the other way.
“Is it very windy up there?”
This question was presumably prompted by the fact that I was, in my turn, now wearing far too many clothes for the immediate conditions. When I confirmed that it was extremely windy on the ridge, the reply was:
“Yes, always seems to have its own wind.”
I’ve heard this said of Cross Fell in the Pennines, but never of any hill in the Lakes before.
The ability of my phone camera to take close-ups seems to have improved enormously. Updates to the software I suppose?
From Carl Side I took the path heading down to the south, heading for Dodd.
It’s now that I have to confess to a bit of utter muppetry. On my way up Dodd, I’d seen no sign of the right-of-way I needed which follows Scalebeck Gill and which I ought to have passed. So when I saw a footpath sign saying something like ‘Dodd Route’, I optimistically followed it. I think I was attracted by its very easy gradient: it descended very gently, or contoured around the western slopes of Dodd. I hoped that it was a very lengthy zig and that eventually there would be an equally long zag taking me back in the direction I needed. When I finally had to admit that this wasn’t going to happen, I felt like I’d come too far to turn back. Unfortunately, the path, good though it was, was heading for the car park to the north-west of Dodd, in completely the wrong direction for Keswick.
It was a long walk on the permission path beside the main road, then through Dancing Gate (what a terrific name for a hamlet!), Millbeck, Applethwaite and Thrushwood back to Skiddaw. In complete contrast to earlier it was hot. I was very conscious of the fact that I was already a bit sunburned from the previous day, and so stuck to the shade wherever I could.
When I arrived in Keswick, it was early afternoon, but I’d just missed a bus, so, with an hour to kill, I stocked up on refreshments and waited in the sun. I didn’t get the seats at the front on the top deck – I couldn’t compete with the sharpened elbows of the bus-pass brigade. I shall be happy to join their ranks in the not too distant future, if using the buses yields trips like this one.
Some stats: MapMyWalk gives 14 miles and just a little over 3000′ of ascent.
Wainwrights ticked-off: Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw Little Man, Skiddaw, Carl Side and Dodd. Can I count Latrigg again?
After all that waffle, in my last post, about my aspirational hare-brained schemes, here’s the evidence of what happens when one of them comes to fruition. Or not.
I’d been planning this one for a while. When I say planning, I mean that in the vaguest of ways. ‘Thinking about’ would be more accurate. Attention to detail was completely lacking.
My family had all bought tickets for Highest Point, an outdoor music festival in Lancaster, not to be confused with Lancaster Jazz Festival, or with The Lancaster Music Festival which is mostly staged in pubs. Why wasn’t I joining them? Well, I was tempted by Kaiser Chiefs and even more so by Basement Jaxx, but the latter were playing a DJ set, and frankly, whatever the attractions, they couldn’t compete with the prospect of a weekend of early summer walking.
So, TBH very kindly dropped me off in Milnthorpe, with about 30 seconds to spare, and I caught the 555 bus through Kendal and Windermere to Grasmere.
I must use the bus more often. It’s a bit slow. And we did sit in Kendal Bus Station for quite some time, for no apparent reason. But I enjoyed being a passenger, and taking in the views, especially after the front seats at the top became available in Kendal, and not having to worry about parking.
Anyway, when I finally arrived in Grasmere, it was bright and sunny and warm for once, much more so than the photos suggest. I popped into Lucia’s for some extra provisions (highly recommended) and then set-off up Easedale in the company of two gentlemen from the North-East, one of whom was very keen to ask for directions (“Is that Helm Crag?”) and tell me about his route, their accommodation in Keswick and so on. The other gent was as taciturn as his companion was garrulous, which made me feel like I was intruding.
Over the years, I’ve looked at maps of the Lakes (particularly my colourful old inch-map, which has a lot to answer for) and thought that I ought to walk along the broad central spine of hills from the Langdale Pikes northwards. I’ve also often thought that it would be brilliant to walk the long ridge from Threkeld to Ambleside over the Dodds and Helvellyn and Fairfield etc. So, here was my madcap scheme – to (sort-of) combine those two, with a bivvy in between, probably on High Rigg I thought.
Since I was using the 555, a start in Grasmere would be easier than trying to get to Langdale, and it would also make it convenient to include Tarn Crag.
It was a really glorious day and on Tarn Crag I sat for quite some time, enjoying the pasty I’d bought in Grasmere and video-calling my mum and dad, to share the views with them.
Since I’d already climbed High Raise earlier in the year, I contemplated trying to contour around from Tarn Crag to Greenup Edge, hopefully visiting a remote little tarn on route, but in the end I couldn’t resist the temptation to climb High Raise again.
I had another stop on Codale Head, and sat for while.
And then another bit of a sit on High Raise. The views from High Raise are expansive. On this occasion I was sharing those views with quite a few people, most of whom seemed to be participating in some sort of organised challenge walk, with people in teams; I wondered whether it was a corporate bonding exercise, based on some of the conversations I overheard.
Not to worry, they were all heading down to Grasmere from Greenup Edge, having started, I gathered, in Langdale. In fact, the remainder of the day was very, very quiet, at least until I reached Keswick.
It took a while to reach the top of Ullscarf, so another rest and a sit-down seemed appropriate. I have a bit of a soft spot for Ullscarf. Years ago I bivvied a couple of times with friends on the slopes above Harrop Tarn and would then climb Ullscarf via its eastern hinterland early the following morning, often in thick mist. In the days before sat-nav, I was chuffed when I actually managed to arrive on the summit. Those empty slopes above Thirlmere always seemed to be a good place to spot Red Deer.
I finished the last of my water on Ullscarf and then dropped into the top of Ullscarf Gill to refill my water bottle.
Standing Crag is a Birkett, but not a Wainwright. It’s well worth a visit in my opinion. I didn’t stop for a sit here. It was well into the afternoon, and it was becoming clear that I’d probably bitten off more than I could chew.
It seems that a consortium of charities have been restoring the peat bogs here. As well as flagging the paths (sadly with some very soggy gaps between the flagged sections) they’ve also created little dams to create some really wet areas…
It was lovely, in a very wet kind of way.
If I hoped that reaching the rocky top of High Seat would spell an end to the bog, I was destined to be disappointed. But it was drier, at least. And after Bleaberry Fell, the bog-snorkelling comes to an end.
I had a long overdue rest on Walla Crag. I must have looked all-in, as a bloke who walked past asked me if I was okay. Which I was, of course. The light was lovely.
I did briefly contemplate a bivvy on (or near) Walla Crag, but I’d been promising myself a take-away tea in Keswick all day and the draw of a greasy, high-calorie meal won out.
It was still light, just about, as I arrived on the outskirts of town, but it was also almost 10 o’clock, and I was striding out whilst using Google Maps in an attempt to work out where the nearest open shop was. Fortunately, I found a little grocery store which was still serving and stocked up on water and ginger beer. It had been thirsty work!
One of the pubs near the Moot Hall had a live band who were playing an excellent selection of covers. (Heart of Glass, Take Me Out, Maggie May, for example, if memory serves me right.) It was very loud out in the street, lord knows what it was like inside the pub. The town centre was extremely busy with revellers, I suppose I probably stuck-out like a sore-thumb. Or a sun-burned, muddy, sweaty, but very happy hill-walker. Anyway, I found a bench where I could listen to the band and tucked into my well-earned donner and chips. So I got my live music in the end, on top of a day’s walking.
I’d already decided by now that High Rigg (where I envisaged a soft heather bed and a very comfortable night) was much too far away. I was also having doubts about my proposed return route – it would be both longer and with more up and down than the walk I had just done. Too much, I thought.
I opted instead for a midnight ramble on Latrigg.
It was dark, but the moon was bright and it’s a wide, well-made path, so I didn’t really need my headtorch. After a warm day, there was now a cooling breeze. Actually, it was pretty windy and quite cool.
I found what seemed like a reasonable spot, overlooking the town, put on every item of clothing I’d brought, including a balaclava, and climbed into my sleeping and bivvy bags.
How did I sleep? Well, better than I’d expected, which is to say – some. The ground was a bit hard, without a cushioning of heather. Also, at some point during the night, the wind changed direction and I woke up to find that it was blowing over my shoulders and directly into my sleeping bag. I’m usually reluctant to completely seal my bag over my head, it’s a bit claustrophobic I find, but I did that now and then slept much more soundly.
The app gives just over 20 miles all told, and almost 1300m of climbing (which is a bit of an underestimate I think, but maybe not too far out).
Wainwrights: Tarn Crag, High Raise, Ullscarf, High Tove, High Seat, Bleaberry Fell, Walla Crag, Latrigg.
Birketts: all of the above, plus Codale Head, Low White Stones, Standing Crag, Watendlath Fell, Shivery Knott, Middle Crag (I narrowly bypassed Blea Tarn Fell, but, fortunately, I’ve been up there before).
I’m grateful to Mr Birkett for all of those extra ticks: fourteen tops feels like a better return on the effort than eight. Some of them are a bit underwhelming however, but if you like walking in the Lakes (and why wouldn’t you?) I would recommend checking out Codale Head and Standing Crag, I think they should be in everybody’s lists.
And my new plan for the morrow?
You’ll have to wait!
(A short playlist for this post: ‘Higher Ground’ Stevie Wonder, ‘Gotta Keep Walking’ Willy Mason, ‘May You Never’ John Martyn.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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?
Of course I could. In fact, so far I’ve found two.
‘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.
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.
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.
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?
I have a few of these ideas for long walks, or exploratory projects mentally filed away.
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?
But frankly, it’s the anticipation as much as anything which keeps my happy.
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.
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.)
So, on that basis, four down and two hundred and ten to go. Might take me a while!
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.
So, plenty still to go at. A cheery thought!
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.
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.
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.
A few years ago*, TBH and I had a spring wander around the Grasmere area which finished along Loughrigg Terrace. The slopes below the path were clothed in bluebells, the scent was heavenly, and TBH has been very keen to repeat the experience for a while now.
(*I checked. It was eleven years! Where did the time go?)
The bluebells had been out around home for a week or two at least, but my gut feeling was that we were a little early in the season, it being the last day in April. But, once TBH has conceived an idea, it’s hard to deflect her from her course.
We weren’t early in the day, I can’t remember now what the hold-up was, but I was concerned about finding parking on a sunny Bank Holiday Saturday. I vowed that we would park in the first convenient spot that we found, which turned out to be the White Moss car park between Rydal Water and Grasmere. There were loads of spaces there, hardly surprisingly, since, operated as it is by messers Teach, Morgan and Kidd we were obliged to leave a kidney each to cover the cost of a few hours parking.
Anyway, as you can see in the photo above, we’d barely left the carpark before my misgivings were waylaid – the bluebells were out in all their glory.
We walked along the western shore of Grasmere as far as the footpath allowed and then along the minor road, looking for the path which climbs through Wyke Plantation. Of course, I’d managed to manipulate TBH’s desire for a walk in the Grasmere area into a convenient opportunity to tick-off a couple more Wainwrights.
When we’d done most of the climbing onto Silver How, and reached the little col seen from below a couple of photos above, I felt that we’d probably got the best shelter we were going to find, and that a lunch stop was in order. I suggested this to TBH, but she was very much against the idea.
“No. I’m intermittent fasting. Only water before three o’clock.”
This was news to me, but I reckoned I could manage. So, press on till three o’clock then.
Our route would take us along the ridge over Spedding Crag and then up Loughrigg.
I’m always surprised, when I see it from above, by just how big Elter Water is. The path beside the lake only allows partial glimpses and you can never get a feel for its proper size.
We walked through the grounds of High Close Youth Hostel. The grounds belong to the National Trust, are open to the public and well worth a look. I’m afraid the photo just doesn’t do them justice. We stayed at High Close for a very wet weekend a mere seven years ago.
The first part of the ascent of Loughrigg was unnecessarily unpleasant, because I insisted in believing the OS map. The path shown doesn’t exist on the ground, but there is a good track setting off from the road junction further north.
I liked the look of the path which dropped down beside Ewe Crag. I didn’t think that I’d been this way before and I thought the route would offer plenty of shelter for a long overdue lunch stop. It was past three o’clock so no more impediment, surely.
I found a lovely, comfy looking spot, dug my lunch, my flask and my sitmat out of my rucksack. It started to rain. TBH was unmoved by my protestations of imminent starvation: you simply can’t stop when it’s raining, apparently, even if you are hungry.
All the way down the slopes of Loughrigg we could see dense patches of bluebell leaves, but the flowers weren’t out yet, so I was partially right about that after all. Next year we shall have to try a couple of weeks later. That way we might spot some Bog Bean and some Butterwort flowering too. At least the woods were full of bluebells when we got back to them…
The following day we were in Eccles for the Colts final against Stockport. It was a close game, which made this spectator tense, but the boys prevailed in the end 15 – 7. (And yes, Eccles is a lot, lot closer to Stockport than it is to Kirkby).
My career as a sports photographer is not destined to be a glorious affair.
I have other photos – of him in a scrum, or making a tackle, or buried in a ruck. Generally, it’s very hard to tell that it is B in the photos. Oh well, it was a very happy day out.
I don’t have a map of the route, MapMyWalk started to play up again. This seems to happen from time to time. Eventually, I end up uninstalling it and then reinstalling it and it’ll work fine again. For a while.
Anyway, two Wainwrights – Silver How and Loughrigg. Not all that far. Not all that much up and down. How’s that?
Easter Monday. The forecast was a bit mixed, but generally for improvement throughout the day. I had big plans, so I’d set off early and was parked up in the National Trust carpark by the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel while there was still plenty of room.
As I walked up the road towards Blea Tarn the cloud lifted off the Langdale Pikes, but it was cold and pretty gloomy.
The Langdale Pikes would dominate the view for much of the early part of the walk, and then again towards the end. I took a lot of photographs of the iconic crags.
My route up Pike O’Blisco curls right behind the stand of trees and then follows the gill into the obvious deep cleft right of centre.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the incredible standard of the paths in the Lakes. This was an easy one to follow at a lovely gradient. somebody did a very fine job of making it.
It was spitting with rain now and again and my cag went on and off a few times.
I seem to have stopped taking panorama shots for a while, without really deciding to, but I took loads on this walk. If you click on them, or on any of the other pictures for that matter, you’ll see a larger version on Flickr.
As I reached the top of the gully and the angle levelled off, the weather turned temporarily a bit grim. I have several photos obviously taken in the rain. Fortunately, it was short-lived, and when the sun appeared once again, it had wet rocks to sparkle on.
The wind was blowing from the west, so those large slabs just below the summit offered superb shelter. I settled down, leaning against one of them, poured myself a hot cordial and video-called my Dad to wish him a happy birthday.
It was soon raining again, but I had a well-sheltered spot and it didn’t seem to matter too much somehow.
Cold Pike was my next target. I decided to take the path which angles up towards the head of Browney Gill, but then strike left when the angle eased.
I found another sheltered spot on Cold Pike for another quick stop. The clouds blew in once again. The weather was changing very quickly.
There are a lot of ups and downs on Crinkle Crags. The scenery is fantastically rocky, but it does mean you really have to concentrate over where you are putting your feet to avoid taking a tumble.
If the Langdale Pikes had kept drawing my eye during the early part of the walk, it was now Scafell and Scafell Pike which were hogging my attention.
The weather hadn’t been too bad, but it was getting bluer and brighter…
I know that the geology of the Lake District is quite complex, with some igneous rocks, lots of slate, periods when the area was underwater and sedimentary rocks were laid down, three separate periods of orogeny lifting the hills, glaciation etc – but I don’t often feel like I know what I’m looking at. The rocks on this walk seemed to change quite often.This large boulder, in Ore Gap had lots of parallel striations which make me think it must be sedimentary. And yet we’re in the central part of the hills, close to Borrowdale, where I thought the rock would be volcanic?
I have a book on the shelf in front of me, ‘Lakeland Rocky Rambles’, which I’ve never really dipped in to – hmm, could be a new project.
I think it’s 11 years since I was last on Rossett Pike. Back then, I didn’t get too much of a view, but I did have my one and only (so far) close encounter with a Dotterel. That was also towards the end of a walk, and thinking back, I’m pretty sure that whilst I may not be particularly fit, I am at least fitter now than I was then.
I picked up a path which skirted below Black Crag and kept me in the sun for a bit longer. It was a great way down, never too steep, and deposited me on the path down from Stake Pass which has superb zig-zags. Once down in the valley I followed two walkers, one of whom was barefoot. I met another barefoot walker a couple of weeks later. I quite like the idea, but I think I would probably stub my toes roughly every five minutes.
I wasn’t quite dark when I arrived back at the car, but it wasn’t far off.
Some hike stats:
MapMyWalk gives a little over 13 miles (although once again, confusingly, the numbers on the map make it look closer to 25 km i.e. well over 15 miles. Who knows.) The app also suggests 1162m of ascent, which is definitely an underestimate. For a slightly different route, over exactly the same hills, Walking Englishman gives 12 miles and 1466m of ascent. I think the truth, for the climbing at least, lies somewhere between those two figures. The fact that they differ by around a 1000 feet is a bit shicking!
It was far enough, at least, to leave me feeling pleasantly tired by the end.
Despite all the effort, there are ‘only’ six Wainwrights, to wit: Pike O’Blisco, Cold Pike, Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, Esk Pike and Rossett Pike.
There’s lots more Birketts because all of the Crinkles are on the list. And some of the bobbles on the ridge down from Rossett Pike – but I wasn’t very careful about which of either of those I actually visited, so I shan’t list them on this occasion.
Leaving aside all of the stats, it was an absolutely superb day which will live very long in the memory. All day long I was thinking that this area is definitely the best bit of the Lakes. But I was thinking much the same thing when I did the Coledale Horseshoe, so I think all we can conclude is that I’m fickle!