It was getting towards the end of our Christmas break and I was itching to get out for ‘proper walk’, or in other words, a day in the hills. The forecast was for cold, cloudy but dry weather. I picked a walk from Brian and Aileen Evans’ excellent ‘Short Walks in Lakeland’ without really reading the description properly (of which, more later).
The walk starts near Castlerigg Stone Circle, where there’s a fair amount of roadside parking. I was eager to get off and since my return route would take me right past the stones, I didn’t bother to take any photographs of them in the morning. I ought to have foreseen that I would finish in the dark, I certainly would’ve realised that had I paid more attention to the guide book, but I didn’t, so you’ll have to go back to my last visit in 2010 if you want to see what it looks like.
As I was admiring the view in the photo above, a Kestrel flew across in front of me and landed in the hawthorn on the left. I stalked around the tree, expecting the falcon to be spooked and fly off again, but it didn’t, at least not immediately…
I’d almost got a view which wasn’t obscured by twigs when it finally drifted away, but only as far as the wall on the far side of the field. I stalked once again, stopping every few strides to take a photo…
I was really surprised how close he let me get.
Naddle Beck, The Benn and Dodd Crag.
Goat Crag and Dodd Crag.
There was evidently quite a bit of work going in the valley. Thirlmere Reservoir, originally created to supply Manchester with water, will soon be connected to West Cumbria. There were signs by the path to Rough How bridge saying that the path was closed whilst the work was being completed, but the signs looked to have been in situ for a while and the path was actually easy to walk, with no kind of obstruction. Likewise, there were signs where the path entered the forest near Shoulthwaite Farm which warned that many of the paths close to Thirlmere were still closed after the storm damage of 2015.
Iron Crag and Goat Crag.
Skiddaw and Blencathra from The Benn.
In fact there were Water Company staff in the forest in a large pick-up, I’m not sure what they were doing, driving around the forest tracks certainly, but one of the ‘closed’ paths took me to the top of the Benn without any issues whatsoever, so, again, I’m not sure why it’s still closed.
Thirlmere and Raven Crag from the Benn.
It’s a shame about the flat light and slightly hazy conditions because Raven Crag is really quite spectacular.
Thirlmere from Raven Crag.
On Raven Crag I sat down for a flask of tea and my lunch. I’ve not been up these minor summits above Thirlmere before and I was really pleased to have rectified that omission.
…Castle Crag was a bit underwhelming, even if it is the site of an Iron Age hill-fort.
I left the forest and set off to cross the moorland. I’d hoped and expected that the ground would be frozen and it was to an extent, but the ground didn’t seem to be quite as boggy as I was expecting anyway.
I was heading for some knolls, curiously named Threefooted Brandreth and then on to Bleaberry Fell. Birkett doesn’t include either Iron Crag or Dodd Crag in his list of Lakeland Fells, but both look worth a visit to me. I shall have to come back another time for a more thorough exploration. I didn’t have time on this occasion: I’d seen that the Evans’ gave their route as nine miles, but only looked at the map and didn’t realise that I had unknowingly combined two of their walks; once I’d finished, Mapmywalk gave my route as twelve and a half miles.
Small unnamed tarn, not in the Nuttall’s ‘Tarns of Lakeland’ books, with Bleaberry Fell behind.
High Seat and the Central Fells from Bleaberry Fell.
Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw from Bleaberry Fell.
Looking back to Bleaberry Fell.
I was rapidly running out of daylight now and was quite surprised by how many people I met still going uphill. I still had Walla Crag to bag, but fortunately that requires very little extra effort.
Derwent Water and the Northwestern Fells from Walla Crag.
Keswick and Skiddaw.
This is the second time I’ve taken photographs of Keswick in near darkness recently. The last part of the walk, along a narrow lane back to the stone circle was in complete darkness.
At the stone circle I was quite surprised to see a number of people apparently exploring by the light of headtorches. I wondered whether some sort of pagan midwinter ceremony was underway, but it soon became evident that some people had met to let off some fireworks. Of course, it’s possible it was a pagan firework display. It looked like fun either way. I might have stopped to watch myself, but I was in something of a hurry because we were supposed to be at the home of our friends G and B for a meal and a games night by six thirty. I was cutting it pretty fine – I didn’t get home until ten past. I turned it around very quickly though and we enjoyed a delicious meal and a terrific evening.