A walk up Sheffield Pike

I was keen to get out to break in my new boots. Fortunately work at the beginning of January is usually fairly quiet and as there was a “weather window” forecast for last Friday I was able to take the day off and drive up to the Lakes. Checking out the walking sites on the web I’d read that there had been some snow which was likely to still be up on the high fells above about 400 metres. But the going wasn’t expected to be too difficult, except, perhaps, on the higher mountains.

As the daylight hours are short at the moment, I decided to drive over to Ullswater and tackle one of the more modest fells close to the lake – Sheffield Pike. I parked up at the Glencoyne National Trust car park, donned my walking gear and set off to head towards the fells via the pretty valley of Glencoyne. I’d walked up the valley back in July when I took the path that passes through the garden of Glencoyne farm, right under the farmhouse window! This time I’d decided to take the track past the row of former miners’ cottages known as “Seldom Seen”. This entailed following the Ullswater way a short distance along the lake before crossing the road and then joining the old cart track up through the woods.

Walking through the fields from the car park I could see up the valley and across to Sheffield Pike. Yes, there was definitely snow up there, but it didn’t look too bad. Hopefully my normal gear would be adequate to cope with conditions. Fingers crossed!

Looking down Ullswater from the lakeside path

Setting off down the track towards Seldom Seen

Looking down to Glencoyne farm with it’s tradition Cumbrian round chimney stacks

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Approaching the row of cottages

The cottages were built in the 19th Century to house lead miners who worked at the Greenside mine, near Glenridding. It would have been a long,walk to work to the mine, 3 km away across the fell. Just one aspect of the tough lives of the miners. Today the houses are holiday cottages (as any search for “Seldom Seen, Ullswater” will confirm).

Most Greenside miners would have lived in the village of Glenridding and it seemed odd that the houses were built such a long way from the mine when there must have been plenty of land available much closer. According to the following little video, they were built for miners who were Catholic and were housed here to keep them well away from the predominately non-Conformist fellow workers.

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I carried on climbing up the path

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Looking back there was a great view down to Ullswater

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As I climbed I started to see snow on the ground

getting deeper

and deeper as I climbed

There was plenty of snow on the ground at the head of the valley

When I reached Nick Head at the top of the climb, I’d been hoping to get a view of Helvelyn, but the summit was covered with cloud.

I’d not seen another soul since leaving the car park, but now I could see a couple of walkers heading up the path towards Stybarrow Dodd, which I’d followed myself back in July. I hope they were well equipped as the snow would be deeper as they climbed higher. Zoom in on the next photo and you might see them, about two thirds up the hill

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I turned in the opposite direction to start the climb to the summit of Sheffield Pike.

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Still plenty of snow on the ground, obscuring the path. But there were footprints in the snow, probably from the two walkers I’d spotted who must have come over this way from Glenridding. I used their footprints as a guide. The snow was soft and it was possible to walk through it without the need for crampons (just as well as I don’t have any!) but it obscured the conditions, covering what was boggy ground. I soldiered on, passing another walker coming down the hill, and eventually made it to the summit.

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It was cold up here, probably around freezing but with a stiff breeze adding to the wind chill. There was ice clinging to the rocks, but the snow was still OK to stand and walk on and only a couple of inches thick.

Time for a coffee from my flask and a bit to eat while I took in the views.

There was still cloud covering the summit of Helvelyn

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and over St Sunday Crag and the fells to the south

It was clearer looking down towards Ullswater

A couple of walkers appeared coming from the opposite direction from myself. They stopped for a while to chat. They were from Newcastle way and were regular walkers in the Lakes. We swapped stories and I asked them which route they’d taken. They’d come up from Glennridding, taking in Glenridding Dodd and then coming up the steep climb to Heron Pike before walking over to the summit of Sheffield Pike. They confirmed that it was OK – with conditions similar to what I’d experienced coming up from Glencoyne.

After saying our goodbyes, I ploughed on through the snow, which once again was largely covering boggy ground, until I reached Heron Pike at the eastern end of the summit plateau.

I stopped to take in the dramatic view down to Ullswater and chatted with another solo walker who was sheltering while he had a bite to eat.

Looking down on Glenridding Dodd with Place Fell over the other side of Ullswater. The High Street Fells were largely obscured by cloud

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It’s a sheer drop down over the edge here so a little backtracking was necessary to locate the path that would take me down into the coll between the Pike and the small hill of Glenridding Dodd.

It was a very steep descent and I needed to take care where I placed my feet as if I slipped it was long way down! I came out of the snow about a third of the way down, but I was aware that the rocks would be slippery with ice and, where it had melted, water. No scree though! I passed a couple of groups of walkers coming up the path – keen to get their boots into the white stuff.

Looking back from near the bottom of the descent.

Reaching the coll I decided to take in the modest hill of Glenridding Dodd. This small fell was very popular with Victorian visitors as there’s an excellent view down to Ullswater.

Looking back to Heron Pike from the path up Glenridding Dodd

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It didn’t take long to make my way up the path to the summit of the small fell

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but I had to carry on a little way across the top of the hill to get the view over Ullswater. (You’ll need to click on the panorama to get a better appreciation of the view)

and looking in the opposite direction back towards Heron Pike

Looking south east there was a lot of cloud over High Street and the nearby fells

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There’s Glenridding and the Steamer pier

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I made my way down towards Glenridding, which didn’t take too long. Looking back up to the Dodd from the village

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I didn’t stop in Glenridding but passed through the village before joining the path along the lake shore, part of the route of Ullswater Way., for the walk of a mile or so back to the Glencoyne car park.

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Getting close to car park I looked back over to Glencoyne and Sheffield Pike

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Back at the car I changed out of my boots. They’d had a good christening – gravel paths, rock, mud, bogs, snow, ice and a little tarmac!

Driving back along the lake I stopped a mile up the road at the National Trust Aira Force car park. There’s a cafe there which was still open.

Time for a well earned brew with a view of the fell I’d climbed

20 thoughts on “A walk up Sheffield Pike

  1. How long was this walk? I’ve yet to do both of these and this looks like the best route up I’ve seen so far. About 8 years ago we parked near the bottom of that Seldom Seen path and I pushed a 3 wheel all terrain pram up the path you walked with my youngest in the pram, past Seldom Seen and onwards, pretty much finishing when we got the view back over ullswater that you got on photo number 9 in this post. I seem to remember it follows a wall which eventually reaches a gate and a path coming up from in the valley, we went back down that way. I was a bit cream crackered by the time I got down again!!

    • It took me 4 1/2 hours for the full circuit. Given the conditions up top slowed me down and you’re younger than me you’d probably do it in less time.
      Wouldn’t fancy shoving a pushchair up Glencoyne! But its a lovely valley, and relatively quiet.

      • Sounds like a decent length of walk, perfect for my two boys who are 12 and 10. They will love Sheffield Pike. I seem to remember getting to the gate before turning to head down and having a rest there, a troup of walkers came up Glencoyne and through the gate, their leader pointed at me and announced to the group that it couldn’t be that hard if I’d manged to get that thing up there!!!

  2. No scree, but I’d probably have turned back at the snow! Lovely views though. As for the cottages, unbelievable bit of discrimination. And though the narrator says it’s a lovely place to live, I imagine it was utterly bleak in the 19th century with no mod cons.

    • Snow is lovely to look at but often not so much fun to walk through. On this occasion it was doable.
      Agree about the cottages. I was curious about their remote location so did a little research. What’s an appealing location for a holiday in summer today wasn’t so great for a miner working long shifts and having to travel a fair long way to and from work over difficult terrain and in the dark, too, in winter.

  3. Terrific pictures, wilder than when we did these two. Interested to hear about Seldom Seen. We knew they were for miners, but hadn’t heard about the Catholics before. A great day out, we were looking that way from Watermillock.

    • I was curious about why they would build houses here so far from the mine, so did a little research.
      It was good to get out for the walk on a rare good day, despite the snow underfoot high up

  4. I’m pining for a decent cold snowy winter day in the hills. This looked like a cracker. Not sure I’ve done these hills although I’m sure I must have done at some point. Those views across Ullswater are amazing. Good stuff.

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