Monday, 17 May 2010

A walk to Swirl How, Brim Fell and the Old Man of Coniston

At 2630ft/809m Swirl How is not the highest in the Coniston Fells but it is a splendid fell even if it is rather crowded in by other tops. On this walk it is reached by Swirl Hawes and then Prison Band, both steady climbs that keep the heart pounding a little and the legs requiring regular breaks - for enjoying the view of course. The stroll along the ridge, past Brim Fell’s fine cairn, and leading on to the Old Man is exhilarating, high, generally easy and from where there are some superb views.

Park in Coniston village car park, in the centre of the village, grid ref 303975.

1 Leave the car park, left, and turn left onto Yewdale Road. Pass the church on your left. At the junction of roads, walk right for a few steps and then cross the road and continue up the lane between the Black Bull Hotel and the tiny supermarket. Carry on to pass Coniston Museum on the your right and walk to the end of the pleasing tarmacked lane. Go on ahead up the continuing rough wide track below Mouldry Bank. Follow it as it winds right, with Church Beck and its many delightful waterfalls beside you on the left, deep in its narrow ravine. Pass Miners Bridge and beyond, part of the unobtrusive hydroelectricity scheme.

2 Carry on along the wide track, into the Coppermines Valley. Go by the miners’ cottages, away to the right (Irish Row), and keep left of the pristine-white youth hostel. At the United Utilities site, where the wide track goes off to the left, take a track to the right, which leads to a T-junction and continues left over a wooden bridge. Follow the track that winds right and then curves, left and upwards. Go past Levers Waterfall soon to reach tranquil Levers Water set in its mountainous hollow.

3 Keep to the right side of the reservoir and then begin your first really steep climb. At times the path gets lost but try keeping to the right where it is marginally drier. Eventually the path becomes more distinct as it moves away from Swirl Hause Beck. Head on up the now obvious way to reach the saddle with its large cairn ahead, and pause to enjoy the view. To the right is the path up to Wetherlam and to the left the steep path, Prison Band, leads on to Swirl How, and this is the direction you take. As you go, pause often to enjoy the views of the Helvellyn massif and the Scafells. And then you arrive at the summit of Swirl How, where you will want to pause again and if the weather is kind, enjoy your packed lunch.
4 Then head south along the splendid ridge – a bit like a gentle roller-coaster ride. It is flat at first and then descends a little, with a great view down to Levers Water to the left and to Seathwaite Tarn on the right. Ascend steadily towards Great How Crags, almost a fell top in its own right. Descend and climb again over Little How Crags to reach Levers Hause. Carry on towards the Old Man, passing Brim Fell’s well made cairn on the left and go on towards the Old Man. The path disappears here as you go on over a wide flat area. Then wind up, slighty left, to the summit of the Old Man with its shelter. Again enjoy the splendid views from the top.
5 Begin your steepish descent, in the direction of pleasing Low Water, leaving in a south-easterly direction.

Very soon the way turns east and then zig-zags north to come down to the side of the tarn. The path takes you on down through the old slate quarries, past collapsed buildings, by an arch and a tunnel. Continue on down the quarry ‘road’ until it begins to wind right (to a car park). Here look for a path going off left. Follow the latter as it curves steadily right, bringing you down through gates, with the distant youth hostel away to your left. At one point you have a choice of two paths and here it is better to take the right one which leads down to the west side of Church Beck. Cross Miners Bridge, turn right and retrace your steps to the village.

  • Start/finish: Car park in the centre of coniston village, grid ref 303975
  • Distance: 7 1/2miles/12km
  • Time: 5-6 hours
  • Height gain: 2450ft/750m
  • Terrain: Wide tracks and paths, many stony and well used. Indistinct and rather wet above Levers Water, at first.
  • Refreshments: Wide choice in Coniston village
For more photos, see "A walk to Swirl How, Brim Fell and the Old Man of Coniston" on Flickr.

If you enjoyed this blog post, find more walks by Mary Welsh either by clicking through to take a look at A list of walks in the Lake District or use the search bar in the top left hand of your screen.

Please read Mary Welsh's Golden Rules for good, safe walking before setting out.

Monday, 5 April 2010

A walk to Aira Force and Gowbarrow summit

This lovely challenging walk starts from the magnificent Aira Force, which pours its water into Ullswater, about which there is a sad, romantic legend. It tells of a beautiful damsel, Lady Emma, who was betrothed to Sir Eglamore. He was a knight and often away fighting the infidel and as these absences became longer she began to sleep walk, visiting places where she and Eglamore had wandered, much in love. One night she reached the edge of the high-level gap through which tumbled Aira Force.

As she stood in her trance, Eglamore, who had unexpectedly returned from his travels, set out to find her. When he came upon her overlooking the torrent, he believed that the noise of the falling water was the reason she did not respond to his calls, and he touched her arm. She awoke and, in her distressed state, tumbled into the depths. Eglamore raced down beside the ravine to rescue her. Eventually he found her far downstream and pulled her from the water, only for her to die in his arms. He was so distraught at losing his love that he became a monk and lived in a cave above the Force. He built a little bridge across the raging beck so that no one else should topple over in the same way.

Park in the Aira Force National Trust car park, grid ref 401201. Members, don’t forget your membership card. The car park lies on the A592, 2 1/2 miles north-west of Glenridding. Buses stop at the car park. There are toilets in the car park and pleasing tearoom just above the car park.

1 From the back of car park, follow the good track into woodland and curve right into The Glade. Cross the bridge over Aira Beck. Climb the steps beyond and at the Y-junction keep to the lower path. This leads on through glorious woodland and then winds a little right, and then left, to a bridge at the foot of the fall, where you will want to use your camera.

Return along the same path and, at the Y-junction of paths, turn sharp left. Walk up a short way to take a small gate on your right onto open fell. Walk ahead on a distinct reinforced path through bracken. Ignore path going off right.
2 Go on up and pause after a few steps to see, to your right, the crenellated Lyulph’s Tower – not open to the public. It was just above this dwelling that Lady Emma lived in a castle. Carry on up, with care, the sometimes pitched path, climbing all the time along the side of Gowbarrow Park. Pause to enjoy the superb views of the lake. After a mile, always up, you reach, left of the path, a lichen-covered picturesque, very hard stone seat.

A little further on there is a stile on the right to a cairn with a superb view – also a notice to say the path down the very steep slope is closed.
3 The path soon winds away from the steep drop for a short way. Then it returns once more. Here pause to enjoy the rocky ridges dropping steeply down, colourful with heather, thyme, hawkbit and tormentil – too steep and lacking soil depth to allow bracken to get established. Eventually the path, still reinforced, begins to descend close to the edge of the steep slopes dropping towards the lake. After nearly a mile from the seat you reach, on the left, a stone ruin, marked as a shooting lodge on the map. Turn left before it.
4 A good path continues, climbing again, until the reinforcing stops and a flatter area lies ahead. The path continues on, damp in places. At one point you have the choice of paths round a huge boulder. The path then begins to climb and comes close to the north side of Gowbarrow. Keep to the path as it winds back and forth and then, ascend easily, to the summit and its cairn. Here you might wish to have a pause, your lunch, and enjoy the stunning views.

5 Before you descend, look down (west) on the short path you came up last and return down it for a few steps to then take a wider grassy path, left, heading half right, towards a long wall descending the western slopes of the fell. This is easy to walk at first but as it gets lower and steeper it has been reinforced with large rocks, over which you should take care. Pause to enjoy the view. The way continues down for over 1/2 mile, coming beside a conifer plantation on your right. Then the hard work ends when you climb a ladderstile over the wall and walk ahead along a short path to join a track.

6 Turn left and follow the way eventually moving into woodland. The track is quite good but take care where stones protrude. Carry on ahead, past High Force and walk on ahead for 3/4 mile through the lovely decidous woodland. Eventually the track takes you out of the trees, to pass through bracken. Ignore the first short path right to a stile into the woodland and carry on to take the second little path and stile. Turn left and soon pass the gate on your left, taken at the start. Carry on downhill and then steps to reach The Glade. Follow the path ahead to the car park.

View Larger Map

  • Distance: 5 1/2 miles/9km
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Height gain: 993ft/334m
  • Terrain: Path to the shooting lodge is good but high and exposed in parts. A reinforced path continues uphill to the start of damp area. The descent is good at first, with one short wettish area. The final steep descent needs care but the big rocks do keep your feet dry!
  • Map: OS Explorer 5
For more photos, see "A walk to Aira Force and Gowbarrow summit" on Flickr.

If you enjoyed this blog post, find more walks by Mary Welsh either by clicking through to take a look at A list of walks in the Lake District or use the search bar in the top left hand of your screen.

Please read Mary Welsh's Golden Rules for good, safe walking before setting out.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A walk to Blea Tarn, Side Pike and Lingmoor

Most Lakeland walks begin from the valley but this route lets the car take the sting out of the early climb so the hard work starts well up the slopes of the two summits visited.

1 Start from the parking area opposite Blea Tarn and cross the road that links Little Langdale and Great Langdale. Go through the gate to overlook the lovely pool. It lies in a shallow hollow that was gouged out of the bedrock by glacial ice, overflowing from one dale into the other. Pause by the shore of the tarn to enjoy the superb view of the Pikes. Tall pine and larch line the western bank of the pool and are pleasingly reflected in the silvery water. Cross the footbridge over Bleamoss Beck and turn right to stroll the recently restored track through the sweet smelling small woodland. Perhaps pause here on one of the wooden seats to enjoy this glorious corner.
2 Follow the stony path as it emerges from the trees onto the open fell, below the eastern flank of Rakerigg. Immediately ahead is the shapely Side Pike, one of the aims of this walk, and, beyond, more spectacular views of the Langdale Pikes. Go through the gate at the end of the long winding track and turn right to come to the side of the pass between the two Langdales. The views from here are stunning. Look for Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, Pike of Bliscoe, and also of the Langdale Pikes - Pike o’ Stickle, Loft Crag, Thorn Crag, Harrison and Pavey Ark. Also spend a little time looking down into the lovely valley far below, with its seemingly tiny walled fields. You might even spot a miniature man on a miniature tractor, ploughing a field.

3 Cross the road, go over the ladderstile opposite and continue ahead up the worn path. Keep with it as it winds right and carries on to a lovely grassy area. Follow the tiny cairn directing you through the outcrops, still on the path, to walk on beside, on your left, a derelict wall. Eventually the distinct path goes through a gap in the wall and continues on to the summit (1187 ft/360m).. The views from here are magnificent in all directions, including that of Blea Tarn shimmering in the distance. Ahead the crags drop sheer. Do not attempt to descend from the summit in any direction other than that taken to get there.
4 Return through the gap in the wall and continue on the path as it slants diagonally down the slopes between crags. On meeting a path coming in on your right, turn left and follow the ledge-like way round below the cliff face on your left. When your way appears blocked, take off your rucksack and squeeze through the restricted gap, passing behind the boulder and under the overhang of the cliff – perhaps regretting that extra cream bun.

5 Carry on downhill, with a wall to your left to reach a fence with a stile. Cross and continue in the same direction, climbing steadily uphill, with the wall to your left. Where it turns sharp left take the stile over a fence. Three paths go off from here. Do not take the left one. The one to your right requires a very steep scramble up by the wall; the middle one is easiest. It makes a big zigzag across the steep hill, then rejoins the path beside the wall. Follow the wall up, scrambling in one of two places. Eventually it is replaced with a fence. Carry on beside it along the knobbly ridge until you reach a high rocky outcrop with a cairn. You have reached the summit of Lingmoor, 1530ft/469m.
6 Almost immediately, after leaving the top, cross a stile over the fence. Another fence goes off at right angles to the main one here. Follow this downhill, right, on a clear cairned path, zigzagging down a scree area, until scattered larches appear beyond the wall, on your right, which has now replaced the fence, the path descending into a boggy hollow. Cross the wall at a bit of fence that was probably once a stile. Go on the clear path up the far side of the hollow and then turn along its edge, winding in and out of rocky outcrops and descending steadily.
7 Where the slope is steep the path has been pitched. It returns you to the edge of a wooded gill, and then goes through a gate gap in a wall. Continue down the stony way and then a grassy swathe through bracken to reach the road near Blea Tarn House. Turn left to return to the car park.

View Larger Map

  • Start/finish: The National Trust car park by Blea Tarn. Access this from Great Langdale or Little Langdale. (GR 296044). If a member of the Trust, remember to take your membership card for free parking.
  • Distance: 4 miles/6.5km
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Height Gain: 1110ft/340m
  • Terrain: Easy walking from Blea Tarn. More challenging when exploring Side Pike and Lingmoor Fell
  • Map: OS Explorer 6, English Lakes south-western area.
  • Refreshments: Elterwater or Skelwith Bridge
For more photos, see "A walk to Blea Tarn, Side Pike and Lingmoor" on Flickr.

If you enjoyed this blog post, find more walks by Mary Welsh either by clicking through to take a look at A list of walks in the Lake District or use the search bar in the top left hand of your screen.

Please read Mary Welsh's Golden Rules for good, safe walking before setting out.

Friday, 8 January 2010

A walk through Great Langdale with an unusual start

Charming Elterwater village lies at the entrance to Great Langdale valley. The cottages were built to house the many men, and their families, who worked the slate quarries around the village. Today, some of these cottages, with pretty gardens and roses round the doors, house visitors on holiday. Through the village flows the lively Great Langdale Beck and on its north side, once stood a gunpowder works, opened by the quarry owners in 1824. Today it is a time-share complex bringing more visitors to the village.

1. From the car park go left over Elterwater bridge and walk right, beside glorious Great Langdale Beck. Look out for the signed path, right, which takes you down to the side of the tumbling water, passing vast heaps of slate waste on your left. Continue on to cross the footbridge over the beck. Walk left past Wainwrights Inn, named after earlier builders of wooden wagons that carried the slate. A short distance along go left again on a signed track behind a walled garden. At the tarmacked road, bear right to Langdale road, which you cross and turn left. Almost immediately walk, right, up a minor road to where it bends towards the church. Here go left to a gate and a signposted footpath.

2. Stroll the path, which is completely overshadowed by a huge retaining wall, holding back vast mounds of slate waste. The path soon leads through the bottom of an enormous disused quarry, the way signed with white arrows painted on boulders. It passes great caverns, cut into massive rock faces, and continues along a lengthy ‘bank’ of slate. The way heads on, twisting and winding round crags on paths established by quarrymen. The way then ascends a winding slate ‘staircase’, which takes you up and up on to green sward, high above the quarry, where you will be amazed at the change of scene. Go ahead along a wide green sward, behind a row of cottages. Before the delightful path begins to descend to the road, climb right, beyond a stream and a large outcrop, until you reach a small waterfall.
3. Here enjoy a splendid view of the Pikes and then walk left on a narrow path through bracken, using a pecked (black dots and dashes) path seen on the OS map. Carry on over a hillock, then below a huge natural tumble of slate to reach a wall climbing the slopes. Follow the path, tucked up beside the wall, on your left, which continues traversing the fell until it turns down left. From here there is a perfect view of the Langdale Valley. In a few steps descend, half-right, to gate at the right end of a fence. Go through and follow the steepish path, parallel with the wall on your right, to reach the valley road, just before Harry Place.

4. Stride right to take the second left turn, a wide reinforced track through the lovely valley, until it decants you into a car park opposite the entrance to New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. If after your challenging walk through the quarry and over the slopes, you need a break, walk up the track to the hotel for a stop at the Walkers Café on the right. Then return to the road, walk right and very soon, left, to stroll a wide track, the Cumbria Way, that leads across the valley floor, over Great Langdale Beck and continues to a gate on the left of Side House. Beyond, turn left, walk the track to go through a gap in the wall and then a kissing gate, before starting your steady ascent of the pitched path that leads you up, and away from the beck, to a gap in the wall.
5. Step across the stream, which hurries down the steep slopes of Lingmoor, that rears up to your right. Carry on along the path, rough in places, with the wall to your left. Stroll on until you reach a signpost. Bear left to pass in front of pretty Oak Howe cottage and continue towards the river. Do not cross the footbridge but walk right along a good track, with the beck hurrying on its way, to your left. Cross the next bridge, New Bridge, constructed in 1818, and follow the track beyond. Just before the track reaches the road at Chapel Stile, follow a pleasing walled way, to pass between dwellings and go on to the tarmacked road, where you turned right almost at the outset of your walk.

6. Carry on ahead along the unmade way to wind round with the track to join the road. Walk right to pass Wainwrights and then cross the footbridge, the gate often hidden by parked cars in the lower car park of the inn. Then retrace your outward steps to Elterwater.

  • Start/Finish: National Trust car park in the centre of the village, where members can park for free, grid ref 329047. Don’t forget your membership card. If this is full, park on the common above the village, grid ref 329051, where the hard standing is free (at present) and then descend to the centre of the village (add on 1/2 mile to your walk).
  • Distance: 6miles/9.5km
  • Time: 3-4 hours
  • Height gain: 460ft/140m
  • Terrain: Exciting trail through quarry; some good tracks and paths; wonderful views (5381 and 5376). Suitable for most walkers.
  • Refreshments: Walkers Café, New Dungeon Ghyll. Wainwrights Inn, Chapel Stile
  • Maps: OS Explorers OL 6 and 7 Landranger 90

View Larger Map

For more photos, see "A walk through Great Langdage with an unusual start" on Flickr.

If you enjoyed this blog post, find more walks by Mary Welsh either by clicking through to take a look at A list of walks in the Lake District or use the search bar in the top left hand of your screen.

Please read Mary Welsh's Golden Rules for good, safe walking before setting out.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

A walk from Mungrisedale village

This pleasing walk starts from Mungrisdale village, rather than the delightful Cumbrian valley. It is the main village of the valley, which includes the smaller hamlets of Mosedale and Bowscale and several scattered fell farms.

  1. After parking, look for the spectacular 18th century limekiln behind the recreational centre and then walk on to pass, on the left, the lane that continues to Scales. A few steps along, turn left into a track, where you are also invited to park (honesty box). Carry on along the track, once reinforced to carry traffic to the lead mines, with the River Glenderamackin to your left and directly ahead the spectacular nose of The Tongue. Ignore a path that carries on along the side of the river as it winds away below Souther Fell, and follow the wide track that climbs quite steeply at first and then curves round the left side of The Tongue. Across to the left, and towering over Bannerdale Beck as it meanders through it dale, looms Bannerdale Crags.
  2. Where the path divides at a pile of stones, take the narrower path on the right. The left hand grassy track leads to the old lead mine on the steep slopes of the Crags. The path you need heads straight up the fell, climbing gently all the way. Look out as you go for the first appearance of Blencathra ‘peeping’ over the top of the Crags. After a long delightful grassy climb the path becomes a little eroded and just beyond stands a small cairn. From here the path to the Crags winds left. This walk carries on ahead on an indistinct path, which soon levels and becomes clear as it nears a cross of grassy tracks and paths, marked with a tiny cairn. Turn right and stroll the grassy highway to what seems to be the summit cairn of Bowscale but is in fact a rough semi-circular shelter of rocks. This is the highest point on Bowscale (2300ft/702m) and is very useful for an out-of-the-wind place for your first stop. From here you can see Lonscale Fell, Great Calva and Knott. Then walk on along the flat stony top, where least willow and mountain everlasting struggles to survive, to the cairn, from where the views are superb.
  3. Return along the grassy swathe and at the cross of tracks, carry on ahead to walk along the rim of Bannerdale Crags (2230ft/683m), all the way to the cairn, a rough slatey affair. Again you will want to pause to enjoy the pleasing views. Then turn right and descend another good grassy swathe towards the col at the right end of Blencathra. Here several paths and tracks meet. Avoid all of these except the good narrow path going ahead onto Mungrisedale Common. A short way along you come to a rather rough shallow gully and the distinct path goes on but this is not the path you need. Climb a few steps out of the gully and then head up the shallow left slope to come to a distinct narrow grassy path (can be boggy after rain) heading gently and almost level, diverging away from the other path across the extensive moorland, for nearly a mile. After a dry spell the path is great but you can see the dried bog plants and on either side some dark pools. As you progress look for pyramidal Great Calva and then Lonscale Fell. Just before the bouldery small cairn (2068ft/633km) with an iron fence post sticking out of it, notice the larger boggy pool round which you wind right. After a pause at the cairn on this rather featureless height, make your return by the same path. There are six or seven paths radiating from the cairn and they all look the same. You will know you are on the correct one when you pass to the left of the boggy pool you noted earlier.

  4. Enjoy the great view of Blencathra as you return across the moor to the col crossed earlier, at the left end of the mountain. Here bear slightly right and then left to reach the start of a path that keeps to the left side of the River Glenderamackin. At first it is rough and a bit scrambly but it rapidly becomes a fine grassy track. Stop as you descend and turn round for a spectacular view of the ‘saddleback’ of the mountain and the very sharp, Sharp Edge. The path descends steadily to White Horse Bent and here you should watch for the narrow grassy footpath dropping down to a wide tractor bridge over the river.
  5. Beyond climb up the slope, which looks much worse than it really is. At the top wind a little right, with the path and then turn left to another meeting of paths. Curve left to start your gentle ascent of Souther Fell. (1680ft/522km). Where the path divides don’t be tempted to head, left, for the well kept cairn but continue gently climbing to reach the summit, marked by a tiny hump of stones from where you have another glorious view. Now a decision has to be made. The path from the summit goes on pleasingly and then makes a long steepish descent with just a little scrambling. Just before the last drop, a post with a large white arrow directs you right along a steadily descending path, through a wet area and on for well over 1/4 mile to the end of enclosed fields. Wind round the last fence and descend a short way to the road to Scales. Turn left and walk on towards the Mill Inn. Here take a pleasing footbridge over the Glenderamackin to return to the car park.

  6. A much easier return involves returning from the summit cairn of Souther Fell for a 1/4mile. Then a drop down, left, over the pathless slope, keeping to the left of some boggy patches. Ignore the first little path going left and take the next, a slittle further down the slope. At first this is narrow but quite clear. Soon it becomes wider and then it becomes a wide green track, a joy to walk. This route down gives you time to enjoy the glorious flat land below, stretching away to the Pennines. The last 50yds are rather vague but by this time you can see the narrow road, which you should join by the gate across the road. Carry on along the road to arrive at Mill Inn and the wooden bridge across to the car park.
  • Start/finish: Small parking area (£2) Mungrisedale village below Mill Inn and opposite the Recreational Centre (GR364303)
  • Distance: 9 1/2 miles/15km
  • Time: 5 hours
  • Height gain: 2051ft/662m
  • Terrain: Good walking after dry weather but can be a peaty walk in places after heavy rain
  • Map: OS Explorer OL 5 The English Lakes north-eastern area
  • Refreshments: Mill Inn, Mungrisdale

View Larger Map

For more photos, see "Walk from Mungrisedale Village" on Flickr.

If you enjoyed this blog post, find more walks by Mary Welsh either by clicking through to take a look at A list of walks in the Lake District or use the search bar in the top left hand of your screen.

Please read Mary Welsh's Golden Rules for good, safe walking before setting out.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

A walk to keep you dryshod during the floods

When planning my next walk, knowing that every field would be sodden and every footpath awash, I puzzled just where it would be possible to go. Even driving from my home to start a walk would be difficult because of the many bridges that were broken, or to which access was denied, because of the battering they had taken from the torrents. Workington, Cockermouth, Keswick and Millom were cut off. Parts of Ulverston and much of Backbarrow were flooded. In the end I decided that I would try a lane walk, fairly close to my home, and start from a parking area above the floods.

  1. From the parking layby walk south for a few steps along the A5092. There is no pavement, so tuck in well. Turn right into a narrow lane and climb gently to pass a tiny church. (Sadly, it was firmly locked when I tried to enter.) Go on up the lane and follow it as it winds right, ignoring any signed footpaths into the flooded fields or woods. Carry on past several dwellings at Wood End, and look for the signed walled track going on ahead. (This has a stony base and, during my walk, looked as if it had had water flowing down it previously but was now passable and quite delightful.)
  2. Follow the track as it descends to pretty Beck Bottom, through rolling pastures, many with floods shining silvery in the weak sun. (Flowering shrubs and yellowing leaves of bushes made this a welcoming hamlet.) Go with the track as it winds right and rises to a narrow road. Turn acute left and walk the traffic-free way for a mile as it climbs over the lower slopes of Lowick Common and then below Lowick Beacon, with glorious views across green pastures, criss-crossed with drystone walls.

  3. After descending to a valley, turn right, climbing gently to a large sign indicating a cattle grid. Stroll this gated narrow lane past Nettleslack farm and climb steadily. (Here large rainbows flickered over the charming farmhouse. Continue on the narrow lane as it curves round more high slopes, to the right, to reach Knapperthaw farm. At the signpost wind right to go on along a little stretch of the Cumbria Way to reach a wider lane. Bear right and walk for a mile along the hedged way, which has no pavements and very little traffic. Enjoy the views across the valley as you pass the small complex at Wood Gate and press on to reach the A5092. Cross with care and head on down a similar lane with a little more traffic. Look ahead as you go to see Lowick Church towering up beyond the trees. Remain on the lane ignoring a right and then a left turn.
  4. Pass the entrance to Lowick Hall and then the church. Just beyond is the very fine ‘green’ village hall, charming to look at and with a walled area open sided to the lane. It has fine seating and is just the place for a break Continue down the lane to pass the Red Lion Inn. Cross the A5084 and walk ahead to stand on splendid Lowick Bridge over the River Crake. (From here the angry river raged on during my walk, spilling over its banks and across a large flat pasture as it roared on its way. If it freoze soon, I pondered, what a skating rink the pasture would make.)
  5. Beyond the bridge, where the road splits, wind right and walk this lovely lane for 1 1/4 miles, high above the Crake. ( I had dramatic views of its fury and of its flooding.) The traffic-free road gradually winds down to reach the hamlet of Spark Bridge. Cross the bridge over the River Crake once more. (It had just been inspected and was found to be safe, though the surging water almost touched the roof of its arch.) Continue past the welcoming Royal Oak, and then on up to the A5902. At the Farmer’s Arms cross to the parking place. (Alas, it had a notice outside ‘Closed due to flooding’ but I hoped it wouldn’t be for long.)

  • Start/finish: Part of the old road, by-passed by the A5092 and lying to its west side, grid ref 302850
  • Distance: 6 1/2 miles/10.5km
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Height gain: Very little
  • Terrain: All lane walking except for track from Wood End to Beck Bottom
  • Refreshments: the two inns at Spark Bridge
For more photos, see "A walk to keep you dryshod during the floods" on Flickr.

If you enjoyed this blog post, find more walks by Mary Welsh either by clicking through to take a look at A list of walks in the Lake District or use the search bar in the top left hand of your screen.

Please read Mary Welsh's Golden Rules for good, safe walking before setting out.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

A walk to Haystacks

This walk takes you into the heart of the Lakeland hills. After crossing Warnscale Bottom and ascending the old packhorse route between Buttermere and Wasdale, known as Scarth Gap, a partly pitched path takes you up to the two cairned serrated craggy summit of Haystacks. The route continues past two lovely tarns set in a rocky wilderness. The return descent is by a path once used by miners to bring down slate to the valley bottom.
  1. From the car park, turn left and, in a few steps, take the signposted bridleway on the left just past Gatesgarth Cottages to walk beside the beck. Continue along the path, parallel with Buttermere, across the valley bottom to cross Peggy’s bridge. Beyond, go through a gate and turn right for a short way and then bear sharp left to climb a stony rising path beside a small plantation. Continue on up the long pitched path up Scarth Gap Pass to reach Scarth Gap.
  2. At the large cairn on the brow of the Pass, look for the partly pitched rocky path that climbs up, left, towards the western face of Haystacks. Near the top, scramble up some small crags to the summit, with a cairn at either end of a small ridge and a small nameless tarn, where you will want to pause.

  3. Continue over the delightful top, heather-clad and with outcrops, to reach Innominate Tarn, Alfred Wainwright’s favourite and where his ashes were scattered. Another pause here might reveal reflections of Great Gable and Pillar Rock. Go on along a ‘passage’ between rocks to cross the outflow from Blackbeck Tarn. Follow the cairned path as it takes you right of Green Crag. Once beyond a path, going off right, look for a path descending left.
  4. Take the steepish cairned way. Go past old buildings of the disused Green Crag quarry. Here slate was ‘mined’ and as it was deeply embedded these workings were known as ‘closehead’ workings, where slaters toiled by candlelight and in difficult conditions. Then look, left, for a breach in the skyline through which descends Black Beck, crossed earlier. Follow the old quarry path as it descends in a series of zig-zags below the forbidding north face of Haystacks.
  5. Just after a waterfall the path takes a sharp turn, left, and goes down to a footbridge over the Warnscale Beck. Carry on along the often wet trod to join the main track descending more sedately from the slopes above and bear left along it for 1.4km to return to the road and then left to car park.
  • Start/finish: Small pay-and-display car park opposite Gatesgarth Farm at east end of Buttermere, grid ref 195149
  • Map: OS Explorer OL4
  • Distance: 5km/3 miles
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Height gain: 495m/1635ft
  • Terrain: Paths pitched for most of Scarth Gap Pass and partly for ascent of Haystacks. Some scrambling towards summit.
  • Refreshments: The Fish, the Bridge Hotel and a good walkers café, all at Buttermere village
  • Public toilets: Behind The Fish, Buttermere
  • Public transport: Traveline for info 0871 200 22 33

View Larger Map

For more photos, see "A walk to Haystacks" on Flickr.

If you enjoyed this blog post, find more walks by Mary Welsh either by clicking through to take a look at A list of walks in the Lake District or use the search bar in the top left hand of your screen.

Please read Mary Welsh's Golden Rules for good, safe walking before setting out.