Fairfield Horseshoe

Ambleside – Nook Lane – Low Sweden Bridge – Low Pike – High Pike – Dove Crag – Hart Crag – Fairfield – Great Rigg – Rydal Fell – Heron Pike – Nab Scar – Rydal Hall – Rydal Park – Ambleside

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Mist over Ambleside.

A friend from the village has decided to join B in playing rugby for Kirkby, which means I now have someone to share lifts with. Presented with a first opportunity to miss a game and have a day off, I dithered; B has been playing for several years and I’ve missed very few games. I enjoy the matches and recently the team has hit a rich vein of form. On the other hand, the forecast wasn’t too bad and the hills beckoned. I was torn, but you can see which outcome eventually won.

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Heading towards the ridge, Sweden Crags, Low Brock Crags and High Brock Crags on the skyline before the snow. High Pike behind.

I was out early, partly because one of the forecasts I looked at suggested clear skies around dawn and also because I discovered that certain Lake District carparks cost just a pound for the day, if you arrive before nine in the morning, including the Lake Road carpark in Ambleside.

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Looking south over Windermere.

The Fairfield Horseshoe must be one of the best known and most popular walks in the Lakes. Even early on a cold, wintery day, with a mixed forecast, there were a few people about.

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The Coniston Fells.

In actual fact the weather was much better than any of the forecasts had suggested. The weather did eventually deteriorate, but not before some marvellous views over a mist covered Windermere and then a spell of glorious sunshine. Even when the weather worsened, the clouds veiling and unveiling the hills and the light shining through gaps in those clouds and spotlighting parts of the scene were dramatic.

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From Low Pike. Another view over Windermere.

On Low Pike I stopped for a while to take in the view and catch up on some breakfast: tea from a flask and some leftover low-carb Spanish Omelette. (Cauliflower replacing the potato: works a treat. Curiously, radishes are not bad either)

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High Pike from Low Pike.

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Heron Pike, Rydal Fell and Erne Crag catching the sun. I would be on the ridge later, but without much sunshine.

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Low Pike, Scandale and Scandale Beck from the High Pike ridge.

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Heron Pike and Rydal Fell again. Scafells and Langdale Pikes beyond.

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Coniston Fells. A great view of the horseshoe I walked quite recently.

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The long steady pull to Dove Crag from High Pike. Fairfield behind.

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I want to call this snow/ice on the wall rime, but I’m not sure that that’s the correct term. There seems to be a paucity of terms to describe snow and ice features in English, so that we often have to use terms from other languages – névé from French or sastrugi from Russian for example.

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I suspect that these beards of snow are the result of snow being forced through the wall by strong winds and building up these shapes on the lee side.

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Fairfield and Hart Crag.

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The Eastern Fells.

With the sun really shining now, I stopped for more tea. Out of the wind, it felt quite warm and I enjoyed sitting in the sun and listening to the drip of the snow melting.

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Looking back to Dove Crag.

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Great Rigg and Rydal Fell.

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St. Sunday Crag.

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Scrubby Crag.

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The horseshoe and Rydal Beck.

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Hart Crag.

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Cofa Pike and St. Sunday Crag.

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Hutaple Crag, I think.

The cloud, as you can see, was coming in quickly, which it had been threatening to do for a while. There was briefly a view of all of the fantastic ridges on the Helvellyn massif. I would have taken a photograph or two, but just at that moment I met an old friend who was walking the horseshoe clockwise with a small group and we stopped to catch up whilst the mist descended around us.

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Fairfield summit.

I was over Great Rigg in thick mist with no views at all, but then dropped below the cloud as the ridge descended. Somewhere hereabouts I found another sheltered spot where I could hunker down and eat my lunch: cabbage and chorizo soup from another flask, the warmth of which was most welcome.

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Rydal Fell and Heron Pike.

The cloud was swirling across the ridge, alternately hiding and revealing the view. The photograph above came after numerous frustrated attempts when the clouds made the ridge ahead vanish at precisely the wrong moment.

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Fairfield from Rydal Fell.

I took a photo from almost the same spot only last summer. Although I haven’t walked the entire round for many years, I’ve often visited some of the individual tops in the meantime. Unusually, I know exactly when I did last walk the whole horseshoe, because it was the second hill-walk which TBH and I did together. (The first was the Langdale Pikes via Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark.) Which dates it as early in the summer of 2000.

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Heron Pike and Windermere (now mist free) from Rydal Fell.

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Rydal Water, part of Loughrigg and Windermere from Nab Scar.

On the lower slopes the snow had turned to slush and for a while the going was tediously slippery.

By the time I met my friend again, on the track through Rydal Park, it was beginning to rain a little and it was almost dark. It had been a long day, but very satisfying. Bill Birkett gives 10.25 miles and 1045m of ascent for this route. Mapmywalk gave 14 miles, but only 957m. I don’t suppose it really matters which is right, although the magnitude of the discrepancy is a bit alarming.

And the rugby? They won. And survived without me, funnily enough. If I could guarantee a day as fine as this one, I might even be tempted to miss another match at some point.

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Fairfield Horseshoe

Raven Crag and Bleaberry Fell

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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…

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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…

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I was really surprised how close he let me get.

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Naddle Beck, The Benn and Dodd Crag.

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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.

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Iron Crag and Goat Crag.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Although…

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…Castle Crag was a bit underwhelming, even if it is the site of an Iron Age hill-fort.

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Shoulthwaite Gill.

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.

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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.

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Small unnamed tarn, not in the Nuttall’s ‘Tarns of Lakeland’ books, with Bleaberry Fell behind.

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High Seat and the Central Fells from Bleaberry Fell.

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Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw from Bleaberry Fell.

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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.

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Derwent Water and the Northwestern Fells from Walla Crag.

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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.

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Raven Crag and Bleaberry Fell

Greenburn: Mines and Ridges

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Slater Bridge and the River Brathay.

Every year I get the first Monday in December off work. I used to think that this was a rotten idea: give me a day in May or June over one when the days are short and the weather likely to be poor, I thought. But now I know better. Last year I had a terrific walk around home, with the icing on the cake being a close encounter with one of our local otters; the year before a tarn bagging day above Grasmere.

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Little Langdale Tarn with Lingmoor Fell behind.

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Langdale Pikes peeking through the gap.

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Heading towards Greenburn.

This year, my plan was a simple one – park at Little Langdale, head up Greenburn as far as the old mine-workings, climb up to Wetherlam Edge from there, seeking out the abandoned adits as I went and then a circuit of Greenburn’s ridges taking in Wetherlam, Black Sails, Swirl How, Great Carrs, Little Carrs, Hell Gill Pike, Wet Side Edge and Rough Crags.

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And that’s exactly what I did. It’s a little over 10 miles, with around 2800′ of up and down. With hindsight, it’s quite an ambitious plan for a short winter day, by my standards anyway, and much tougher than what I felt I could manage two years ago for example. Although, I did finish in the dark, of which more later.

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Greenburn.

As I walked up the valley, the early cloud was clearing rapidly, although I still didn’t have the promised sunshine.

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Greenburn Mine.

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From the mine I took a very direct, and steep, line of ascent following a route up the hillside which I don’t think was a path exactly, but must have been a grassed over feature dating back to the days of the mines.

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Lingmoor Fell, Little Langdale, Fairfield behind.

I was still in the shade, but the expanding views gave me plenty of excuses to stop and take stock.

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Wet Side Edge, Crinkle Crags, Pike of Blisco, Bowfell shrouded in cloud.

I passed three adits, the Pave York Levels. This…

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…is the most imposing entrance of the three, the top level.

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Copper Oxide was extracted here in the past. If you’re interested, it’s not hard to find photos from inside these mines online. The whole Greenburn Mine area is a scheduled ancient monument. The listing is here. Sometime I shall have another poke about in this area and seek out the Long Crag Levels too, which extend quite close to the summit of Wetherlam.

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Looking down Wetherlam Edge to Birk Fell Man.

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From Wetherlam: Scafell, Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, Pike of Blisco.

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Swirl How and Great Carrs from Wetherlam.

Although there was now quite a cold wind blowing, the sun was shining too. I hunkered down behind some slabs, which I can pick out on the photo above, and broke out the stove to make a brew. Out of the wind, the sun was really quite warm and I sat comfortably for perhaps 40 minutes just enjoying the situation.

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Looking south-east to Windermere.

Eventually I moved on and climbed Black Sails.

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The main path bypasses Black Sails and, whilst I’ve been up Wetherlam many times over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever bothered with Black Sails before. My loss, and one up for Bill Birkett and his hill-list, this was one well worth making a detour for.

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Prison Band, Swirl How, Great Carrs.

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On Prison Band.

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Looking back to Black Sails and Wetherlam from Prison Band.

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Great Carrs and the hills around Upper Eskdale from Swirl How.

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Wetherlam and Black Sails from Swirl How.

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Looking along the ridge to Coniston Old Man.

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The remains of Halifax LL505.

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The Scafells, Little Stand, Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, Cold Pike.

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Harter Fell and Eskdale.

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Harter Fell from Hell Gill Pike.

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The sun was dropping rapidly towards the Irish sea and giving the hills a lovely alpenglow. Which was great, except I still had a fair way to go.

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In the event, the light lasted long enough to take me down Wet Side Edge and over Rough Crags, but I wanted to cross Greenburn Beck and didn’t really trust in the right-of-way marked on the map, since there was no accompanying actual path shown. I remembered seeing a bridge over the beck in the morning, but couldn’t recall exactly where, so I aimed off and hit the stream well above where I needed to be, then followed the beck down. That bank of the stream turned out to be slippery, wet and boggy and quite difficult to judge in the failing light. When the footbridge eventually hove into view I was quite relieved. All that remained was an easy stroll along the track back to Little Langdale as the stars appeared and the frost began to bite.

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Greenburn: Mines and Ridges

Skiddaw Bivvy

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Keswick and Derwentwater – it was quite a bit darker than this photo suggests.

Friday evening. S has a class on the climbing wall in the Sports Centre at Lancaster University. It had been a busy week: S had been the Artful Dodger in his school’s production of Oliver (which was brilliant, although I may be a little biased). I’d also had a late evening at work, so hadn’t managed my usual evening walk(s). What’s-more, the nights had been hot and sticky, at least by local standards, and I’d been finding it hard to sleep. Driving home with S I had an inspiration – a way to get out for a walk and get a cooler night. Back at home I hurriedly grabbed something to eat, threw some things into my rucksack and set-off for Keswick.

I parked in the high car-park behind Latrigg, which was quite full. There were several occupied campervans which I guessed were staying the night, but numerous cars also. A couple approached me and asked about potential wild-camping spots. They’d ended up here by default after having problems with closed roads. It occurred to me afterwards that they may have been heading for the end of Haweswater, because when we were there a few weeks ago, somebody had been larking about with road-closed signs and diversion signs even though there was actually little or no work going on. Anyway, I wasn’t much use to them; I haven’t camped in this part of the Lakes before and haven’t climbed Skiddaw in an absolute age. They decided to try Latrigg, but soon overtook me on the broad path up Skiddaw, looking for a spot on Jenkin Hill, where I saw them again with their tent just about pitched.

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The moon rising over the Dodds.

It was already after sunset when I started my walk and I was surprised by the freshness of the breeze, so much so that I hastily stuffed an extra jumper into my bag which I happened to have in the boot of the car. TBH and I had noticed that the moon was full when we went out for a short stroll after Little S’s theatric triumph, so I was anticipating a light night and that’s how it turned out – I only used my headtorch close to the top of Skiddaw when the ground was rocky and I wanted to avoid a trip.

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I arrived on the top at around half twelve. Even then the sky to the north still held a good deal of light. There were a few people about – I suppose that this is a traditional weekend for fell-runners completing the Bob Graham Round.

I was after something much more modest – a place to kip-down for a few hours. I’d remembered that the highest parts of Skiddaw are very rocky – like a slag heap, one friend has subsequently described it – but felt confident that I would find somewhere. Ironically, given my enthusiasm for wild-flowers, it was the sight of tiny white stars of the flowers of a bedstraw – there are many species – which stood out in the darkness and led me to a spot with at least a thin covering of soil. It’s wasn’t a spot I could recommend – sloping, uneven, hard, stony and not entirely out of the, by now, pretty fierce wind, but, somewhat to my surprise, I not only slept, but slept quite well. It was cold though – I discovered that when needs must I can get right down inside my sleeping bag and close it over my head. Between my sleeping bag, the thin pertex bivvy bag I have and the extra jumper I’d brought I just about stayed on the right side of comfortable.

I woke at around three, momentarily panicking a little because it was so light that I was worried that I’d missed the sunrise, despite the fact that I’d set an alarm for 4.20am, precisely to avoid that eventuality. I should have taken a photograph at three – the colours in the northern sky were superb, but I’m afraid my head was soon down again for a little more shut-eye.

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In the event, I didn’t need the alarm: two groups of people walked past my little hollow about 10 minutes before it was due to go off, timing their arrival on the top just about perfectly for the sunrise.

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It’s a while since I’ve watched a sunrise from a mountain. Perhaps I won’t wait so long this time to repeat the experience.

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There was evidently a layer of cloud hanging low over the Solway Firth to the north and the Eden Valley to the east and odd wisps of mist closer to hand.

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Bassenthwaite Lake.

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An early party on the summit.

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Derwentwater and the surrounding hills.

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Derwentwater and the Fells pano.

For reasons which now escape me, I climbed Skiddaw Little Man in the dark on the Friday night, but I’d stuck to the main path which omits the top of Jenkin Hill, and avoids Lonscale Fell and Lonscale Pike altogether, so on my way back to the car I diverted slightly to take them all in.

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Jenkin Hill, Lonscale Fell and Blencathra behind.

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Looking back to Skiddaw Little Man and Skiddaw. 

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Derwentwater and the Fells from Jenkin Hill.

From Lonscale Pike, I found a slight path, which followed the wall down close to the edge of Lonscale Crags. Part way down, I realised that the weather had already warmed up considerably and decided to sit down to admire the view with a bit of porridge and a cup of tea.

Nearby, I spotted this large caterpillar…

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…which I think is of the Hairy Oak Eggar Moth. B and I saw some similar caterpillars on Haystacks two summers ago.

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Foxglove.

As I got close to the car park again, and was down amongst the bracken covered hillsides, there were numerous moths and some Small Heath butterflies and a host of small birds about. Sadly none of my photos turned out very well.

Back at the car, I dumped my rucksack and set-out to tick-off Latrigg, it being so close by and the weather so favourable. Incidentally, the car park was already full, at 9 in the morning, breaking the usually reliable rule that car-parks in the Lakes are almost empty before 10, I presume because people were seeking an early start to escape the heat of the day. There’s a direct path to the top, not shown on OS maps, but also a more circuitous one, which I chose, partly because I wasn’t in a hurry and partly because I thought it would give better views.

Latrigg was busy with walkers, runners and Skylarks.

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I watched this Skylark in flight and then, after it had landed on a small mound, walked slowly toward it, taking photos as I approached.

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This Skylark…

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…didn’t require the same effort. It landed quite close to the path and then flew just a short distance further on, before having a ‘dust bath’ on the path. Although it was much closer than the first bird, it wouldn’t pose and look at the camera in such an obliging way.

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Keswick from Latrigg.

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Keswick from Latrigg pano.

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Skiddaw massif from Latrigg.

Highly enjoyable, although it did leave me a bit wiped out for the rest of the weekend. Hopefully, I’ll try another summit bivvy, if the opportunity arises – without a tent I can manage with my small rucksack, which wasn’t too heavy, aside from the two litres of water I was carrying.

Skiddaw Bivvy

Small Water Camp and Swim

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On Piot Crag, Haweswater behind.

We eventually arrived at the end of Haweswater late on the Bank Holiday Monday afternoon. The car park was still fairly busy, but was also noticeably emptying. We chose to revisit Small Water, the site of A’s first wild-camp, two year ago, for the same reasons we’d chosen it then: it’s a short walk-in, starting from quite high altitude. In addition, we now knew for sure that there were a number of good spots in which to camp by the tarn.

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An early rest during the ascent to Small Water.

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Looking back to Hawes Water from close to the top of the climb to Small Water.

It was still hot, so when we arrived at Small Water, we dumped our heavy bags in a suitable looking spot, and made a bee-line for the lake. The southern side of the tarn was still bathed in sunlight, but the sun would evidently soon disappear behind the hills, so we made the most of the opportunity and dived in for a swim. (Except TBH, obviously). The water was cold, but not at all bad, once you were in, and the surroundings were superb.

The place we’d selected to pitch our tents, which was close to where A and I camped last time and which I’d ear-marked then as a likely place to get two tents comfortably, was still in the sunshine fortunately, at least for a little longer. The Quechua tent we bought A goes up very quickly and A has the process down to a fine art, having used it several times now. The boys and I took a little longer with Andy’s tent, but felt that we’d made some progress with how to do the trickiest part of the process, so that was something.

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We enjoyed our pasta tea whilst watching pink clouds drifting overhead. The boys went through their usual routine of running around excitedly, exploring our surroundings and climbing every boulder and small crag they thought they could manage, whilst the rest of  us filtered water for the morning. One final, short outing, to circumnavigate the tarn, the boys constantly on the look out for places where they might jump in, and then we turned in.

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Our pitch.

The next morning brought low clouds and, in our tent at least, recriminations: the boys and I all felt that we’d had a poor night made worse by the snoring and tossing and turning of the other two, who had, in our opinions, both clearly slept soundly and loudly. We can’t all have been right. TBH and A, meanwhile, who both sleep like proverbial logs, slept on after we’d got up, and eventually I steeled myself and woke them up.

We’d all put together our own versions of this porridge mixture. B was adamant that the edition of powdered milk, which we didn’t have when he’d tried it before, had transformed the result so that it was “as good as porridge at home”. A meanwhile, had ground up her oats so that, after the addition of hot water, her’s actually looked like proper cooked porridge. She’d also added chocolate chips and I have to confess that, having tried it, the result was delicious. TBH’s innovation was powdered coconut milk, which I didn’t even know existed. That worked too. You’ll have to excuse all of the details about food, but if you’ve ever been back-packing, you’ll know how vital getting that right is to the success or otherwise of a trip.

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The boys loved these slabs, right by where we camped. Here, Little S is shouting “Look at me Andy”, which he seems to have adopted as a catch phrase. I think the first time he did it, he will have been only about three and had just scaled a small cliff above a beach at Towyn.  I don’t know if, even then, he was being mischievous and deliberately trying to frighten our old friend Andy, but that’s been his intention ever since, so that now he sees it as an in-joke and will shout it even if Andy is not with us.

After our leisurely start we set-off up Piot Crag. It looks fairly intimidating from below, and perhaps more so when you are part way up, but we knew that the route ‘would go’ as A and I came this way last time.

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You reach a point where the way ahead seems barred by crags…

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But in fact there are two lines of crags and if you head right you reach the bottom of a stone-filled gully which leads up between them, steeply, but safely.

I had been quietly hoping that we might find…

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…some Roseroot having read that it can be found on the steep crags above neighbouring Blea Water.

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It’s a member of the stonecrop family, many of which are quite small, but this is fairly sizeable by comparison. It’s a succulent and has thick leaves, like a Sedum. The Wild Flower Key lists it with Orpine, which grows abundantly on walls near home. Apparently, its roots, when dried, smell like roses, hence the name. I’m sure that I’ve seen it before, but can’t think where. I think it’s quite rare in the wild, but is also grown in rock gardens. The flowers weren’t fully open, which was a shame, but gives me something to look out for in future. I wanted to climb above it to get better photos of the flowers, and Little S, naturally, was keen to come with me. When the first hand-hold I grabbed, a very substantial lump of rock, started to come away from the rockface, I abandoned the idea.

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Parsley Fern.

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At the top of the gully there’s a fair bit of spoil and a few structures. There must have been some sort of mining or quarrying hereabouts in the past. We stopped for a quick drink.

From there it’s not much of a climb to the top of Mardale Ill Bell.

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Small Water and Harter Fell..

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High Street and Blea Water.

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Small Water and Haweswater. Piot Crag is the ridge on the left in shadow.

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I quite fancied continuing along the ridge to Harter Fell, but I was in a minority of one.

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A dry Kentmere reservoir. Working on the dam apparently.

The consensus was that we should return to the tents for lunch and then another swim in Small Water.

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Small, odd structures by Small Water, marked on the map as ‘shelters’. By boys decided that they are garages, although they aren’t remotely big enough for anything but a Dinky toy car.

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Lunch was humus and pan-fried bread, an experiment with camping food that I’ve wanted to try for a while. I’d made chapatis with tea on the Sunday night and remembered, or thought I could remember, old friend Geordie Munro once making them in a Trangia pan lid, whilst we were on a backpacking trip, and how welcome they were after a few days of less imaginative fare. So I’d brought flour, salt and dried yeast in a freezer bag and then warmed some water to add to the bag after we’d had breakfast, leaving it to rise in the tent’s porch. When we got back I found that the mixture was so sticky that there was no real way that I could hope to flatten it out into chapatis. Instead I turned lumps of dough out of the bag into a hot pan which I’d sprayed with oil. I couldn’t even flatten the mixture in the pan, because it stuck to my spoon, but, if I cooked it for a while and then flipped it over, I found that enough of a crust had formed that I could then press on the cooked side to begin to shape the loaf. By repeatedly flipping and squishing the loaves I managed to get them to cook through okay. I made three, of which the photo above shows the last and by far the largest. How were they? Well, there was none left and I shall definitely being doing that again. My hands did get a coating of sticky dough, but I found that it soon dried and fell off without my having to worry too much about how to remove it.

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Small Water pano.

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After lunch – another swim in Small Water. It being earlier in the day, we could try the north shore and still be in the sun. Here the bottom shelved even more quickly than it had on the other side, so that two strides in you were already deep enough to swim. Only me and the boys swam this time, TBH and A watched and took photos, including these which TBH took with my camera.

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I don’t know why it’s never occurred to me to swim here before. With the steep slopes of Small Water Crag as a backdrop, this is an amazing place for a dip. I was reminded of a larger tarn in a similar, but larger corrie in the Pyrenees, where I swam when TBH and I were there years ago. Without a wetsuit, Little S didn’t last too long, but B and I had a good, long swim. That’s us, the tiny dots in the photo above.

We weren’t the only ones enjoying a swim: we repeatedly saw fish jumping out of the water. Probably after these fellows…

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Mayfly piggybacking on my towel.

After that it was just a question of packing up and retracing the short walk back to the car.

Sadly, one further bit of excitement as we walked down – a herd of sheep went hurtling past us down the hillside with a collie in close pursuit. The sheep gradually split into smaller and smaller groups until the collie was only chasing three, then just one lamb. They were quickly way below us, but I could see that the dog had the lamb cornered against a wall. Still barking furiously, the dog had the sheep turning repeatedly back and forth, back and forth. We carried on down and, when we reached the same wall, I dumped my bag and started to make my way around towards the pair of them. I tried to discourage Little S from joining me, not knowing what frame of mind the dog would be in, but he went racing off and soon B had joined us too. We realised that they’d moved on again and the sheep was in Blea Water Beck, trapped against the fence which continued the line of the wall across the beck. As we neared the stream, Little S, anxious to help the lamb, went haring off ahead, disappearing over a slight rise. He reappeared seconds later, at quite a lick, looking more than a little alarmed.

“The dog’s after me, the dog’s after me.”

It was only a small collie, dripping wet, it had clearly been in the stream. It took one look at me and turned to run back up the hill to its owners. The lamb didn’t seem to be hurt in any obvious way, but nor did it want to budge from it’s position, backed against the fence at the edge of the stream. We left it, and later saw it head up the hill to rejoin the flock. We also saw the feckless dog owners, with the collie now back on a lead, approaching the car park, but chose to head to Shap chippy for some tea rather than staying to get into a row with them.

Small Water and Piot Crag

 

Small Water Camp and Swim

Heron Pike and Alcock Tarn

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Fairfield Horseshoe from Rydal Fell.

Another evening post-walk work. It was still quite warm. My plans centred around an evening swim. Northern Rail’s failings threw a spanner in the works, because a cancelled train left me driving the kids home first. Since I was at home and had some cooked chicken in the fridge, I decided to quickly throw together a salad to take with me to eat whilst I was out.

So, I was a bit later setting off than I usually am, and I still hadn’t decided where to go. I was trying to think of somewhere not too far away, with a shortish walk in, a good swimming spot, and which was likely to retain the sun as it began to sink. I couldn’t really think of anywhere which met all the criteria and, more by default than anything else, finally parked in Rydal, intending to visit Buckstones Jump. But I’d forgotten that the track we’d used when I took the boys there, has signs saying that it is a farm track only, with no public access. I stood and vacillated for a while. I could just trespass; would there be anyone about to notice me now? But in the end, I chickened out and changed my plan.

Not before I’d noticed this gnarly old Oak though…

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Or, more specifically, the fungi growing on a splintered part of the trunk…

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I’m pretty sure that this is Sulphur Polypore, or Chicken of the Woods, something else, like Herb Paris, that I’ve waited a long time to see. It’s allegedly good to eat and if I’d had a ladder with me, or a small boy adept at shinning up trees even, I would be able to report on the flavour. But I didn’t have either, so I shall have to wait again.

I consulted the map and realised that I could climb Heron Pike and then return via Alcock Tarn, giving what looked to be a fairly reasonable round, all sticking to western slopes, where I would keep the sun for longer.

The climb up Nab Scar was, frankly, too steep for a hot and sticky evening, but at least I was rewarded with views back to Wansfell and Windermere.

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I met a couple descending just before I took this photo; they were the last other walkers I saw all evening.

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Nab Scar pano.

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Heron Pike from Nab Scar.

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Rydal Fell, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag, and Dove Crag from Heron Pike.

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Heron Pike and Windermere from Rydal Fell.

On the top there was a welcome bit of breeze. Welcome, that is, until I wanted to sit down, make a brew and enjoy my salad and the views. Fortunately, I found a small hollow just off the top of Rydal Fell which was sheltered, in the sun, and had fine views of the Coniston and Langdale Fells, with the Scafell range beyond…

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My salad barely touched the sides, but making and drinking a cuppa took a while, which was a perfect excuse to sit in this peaceful spot and soak it all in.

I’ve been quite surprised to discover, retrospectively, that Nab Scar and Heron Pike are both Wainwrights and that, in addition, Rydal Fell is a Birkett. I might not have bothered if I’d paid any heed to wainwright in advance however:

“Heron Pike is a grassy mound on the long southern ridge of Fairfield. From no direction does it look like a pike or peak nor will herons be found there. It is a viewpoint of some merit but otherwise is of little interest.”

From Rydal Fell I almost doubled back on myself,  contouring around the western slopes of Heron Pike before descending towards Alcock tarn.

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Loughrigg, Coniston Fells, Grasmere, Alcock Tarn.

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Alcock Tarn.

In Heaton Cooper’s marvellous guide to the tarns of the lake district you can discover that Alcock Tarn was once Butter Crags Tarn before it was dammed, by a Mr Alcock, and stocked with trout. AW, the Auld Whinger dismisses it as ‘a dreary sheet of water’. He must have been in a foul mood when he wrote up Heron Pike. In ‘A Bit of Grit on Haystacks’, an anthology edited by Dave Hewitt and published by Millrace Books to commemorate both the centenary of Wainwrights birth and the fiftieth anniversary of the first of his Pictorial Guides, appropriately The Eastern Fells, which contains the entry on Heron Pike, Harry Griffin tells a story, which he learned from a mutual friend, of Wainwright abandoning a round of the Fairfield Horseshoe and heading directly down to Alcock Tarn from Heron Pike in order to avoid Griffin, who was also a friend, because ‘he talks too much’. Nice chap.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Wainwright!

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Alcock Tarn. Dreary.

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Dropping down from Alcock Tarn I picked up the Old Corpse Road between Grasmere and Ambleside to take me back to Rydal. There are no photographs here because the sun, and with it the best of the light, had gone, but it’s a route which has appeared several times on the blog before, because this is one of my favourite low-level routes in the area.

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A little over 7 miles with around 550m of ascent.

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That evening, the valley of Rydal Beck soon disappeared into shadow, whilst I was in glorious sunshine on the ridge, so my choice turned out to be a fortuitous one. I have a pet theory about a different way to get to Buckstones Jump which I would like to try. I’m not sure when I will get around to it though.

Heron Pike and Alcock Tarn

Piers Gill, Lingmell and the Corridor Route.

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B outside St. Olaf’s Church, Wasdale Head.

A’s DofE training finished earlier than I had anticipated and we were able to make a leisurely trip up to Nether Wasdale and still arrive with plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine and have a barbecue with some of our friends. Church Stile campsite was heaving, perhaps because of the excellent forecast, but we were able to squeeze in next to J and C and C’s schoolfriend M. It’s a good job that I’d decided not to bother with the trailer tent however, because the ‘large grass plot’ we’d paid for was far from large. Church Stile is a first rate campsite, but extra fields have been added and all of the fields were, frankly, over-full. It was still quiet and friendly, but hot water for showers or washing-up was hard to come by, there were too many people on the site for the facilities to cope with. Hopefully, this was a one off: we’ve been many times before and have always been impressed.

Anyway, rant over, back to the real business of this post: other friends of ours were scattered over the site, some in vans, some in caravans, although others were missing, and much missed.  After a very leisurely breakfast, some of us gathered together to set off for a walk. Driving down to Wasdale Head proved to be a bit of a trial, with some real muppetry on display on the narrow lanes and idiotic parking at the end of the valley, but we managed to find spaces despite our very late start.

First port of call on the walk was the tiny church at Wasdale Head. The church is very old, these roof-beams reputedly came from a Viking longship.

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One of the windows apparently has an engraving of Napes Needle, which I seem to have missed – I shall have to go back to investigate.

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The post title pretty succinctly summarises our route. On the OS map, there’s a dotted line which follows the twists and turns of the edge of the deep ravine of Piers Gill. In years of visits to Wasdale, I’ve never climbed that path even though the prospect has always intrigued me. Time to put that right.

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Great Gable from Moses’ Trod.

Great Gable would dominate the view all day, which is no bad thing.

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Gable again.

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Walking beside Lingmell Beck.

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Crossing Spouthead Gill.

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Great Gable again!

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Crossing Greta Gill.

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The deep cleft of Piers Gill ahead.

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Greta Gill.

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Piers Gill with Lingmell behind.

The ascent beside Piers Gill was steep and I was still suffering with a rattling cough, which is my way of saying that I was very slow and probably held the others up no end. But they should probably thank me for that: this is rough, inspiring mountain scenery which, in my opinion, has no equal, in England at least. I can think of hills in Scotland which are crag-bound and steep and as awe-inspiringly formidable as this area, but I can’t think of a match in the Lakes. There was even a little easy scrambling to be had – which was highly amusing, as the children were solicitously checking that the adults were ‘alright’.

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The path beside Piers Gill.

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Looking across one bank of the gill to Gable (of course).

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B admiring the ravine.

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The Adopted Yorkshireman on Lingmell.

We seemed to have numerous lunch stops, but I didn’t take advantage of any of them for a collective group photo. I think I was genuinely a bit worn out. Eventually, we made it to Lingmell.

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Gable and Styhead Tarn from Lingmell.

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Scafell Pike and Scafell from Lingmell.

Old Father Sheffield half-mooted the idea of continuing on to Scafell Pike, but his suggestion didn’t meet with any enthusiasm. Scafell Pike is always thronged, even on a rotten day, and today it looked like it was absolutely overrun. Besides which, A and B and I were up there relatively recently. And I was already cream-crackered.

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Red Pike, Pillar and Kirk Fell.

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The Screes and Wastwater.

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A filling our bottles from one of the streams which feed Piers Gill.

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By Piers Gill again.

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Heading down the Corridor Route. OFS seems to have a hankie on his head. I think it was actually an Eddy Merckx style cycling cap.

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Round How and Great End.

I suggested diverting to Round How and Lambfoot Dub, but then decided that was too much effort and left the AYM to do it on his own.

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Looking back down the valley towards Wasdale Head.

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Piers Gill and Lingmell from our descent route.

We came down a superb, well-made path, clearly very old, with nice easy zig-zags. I felt sure that I had been down this way before, perhaps it was with CJ when we stayed at the Wasdale Head Hotel.

Gable still dominated the view. Here’s some close-ups, using my camera’s zoom…

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Napes Needle on the left. (I think).

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Napes Needle?

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A superb day. I’ve been walking in these hills, with these same friends (well, the AYM anyway), for over thirty years. I hope that this day will live as long in the memories of the four children who were with us as many of my previous outings have with me.

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Later, back at the campsite, another barbecue. B and I had Church Stile’s own Herdwick burgers, which were delicious. Then, for the second night running, a chinwag around a wood-fire burning in the portable fire-pit which TBH bought me for Christmas. B tended the fire whilst I sampled some Ennerdale Brewery Beer. I didn’t know there was an Ennerdale Brewery until I saw some bottles in the camp site shop, but I can now report that their beers are very palatable. Marvellous.

 

Piers Gill, Lingmell and the Corridor Route.