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.

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Heron Pike and Alcock Tarn