Cat Bells, the Newlands Valley and a short stroll along Derwent Water

The final day of my week off in March and, although we didn’t know it at the time, just over a week until the “lockdown”. The Government’s policy at the time was to develop “herd immunity” and and in an interview in the Sunday Times – behind a paywall! – the Health Secretary was talking about locking up the elderly and other vilnerable people for 3 months. Government policy seemed confused and uncler, but there didn’t seem to be any reason not to go up to the Lakes for a walk, where I’d be in contact with fewer people than I would have been back in Wigan.

I set off early and driving up the M6 traffic was noticeably quieter than normal, but it was far from deserted. Arriving in Keswick I found a place to park on the old road to Pontiscale – now a dead end for traffic but a popular free place to park. After donning my boots and rucksac I set off, crossing the footbridge over the river and walked through Portiscale village, passing the appartment where we stayed a couple of summers ago.

It was a relatively easy start to the walk but after about a mile and a half, during a short climb , I realised I’d left my walking poles in the car. They take some of the strain off my dodgy old knees when descending, but I’d gone too far to turn back to retrieve them so I soldiered on.

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About 40 minutes after setting out I reached the foot of Cat Bells. It’s a smaller fell and in easy reach of Keswick, so it’s a popular climb and I expected to see a few other walkers on the way up. The sign told us it was an hour to the top. The last time I went up here it took me about 40 minutes, but as I hadn’t done a lot of fell walking of late I wasn’t sure I’d manage to equal that this time.

As expected there were other walkers making their way to the top, probably not as many as usual, although it was still relatively early. I wan’t the slowest by any means, although I stopped several times to take in the view (not just and excuse to pause for breath – honest!).

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I arrived at the summit after 45 minutes, so not quite as quick as last time. It was a grey day so the fells didn’t look their best, but he views were still magnificent even with cloud covering some of the higher fells – it made them look atmospheric.

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After a short break to take some photos I resumed my walk, heading south, downhill towards Newlands hawse. I could have carried on along the ridge up to Maiden Moor and High Spy or down to the shores of Derwent Water, but my plan was to descend down to Newlands Valley.

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Old mine workings
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Looking back down the valley
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Newlands is something of a “secret valley” much less trod than the east side of the ridge and I passed very few people – just a handful of walkers and a mountain biker (older than me!)

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There was some rain around and I spotted a rainbow

Reaching the bottom of the path up to Cat Bells, rather than retrace my steps back to the car, as it was stoll early in the afternoon, I decided to walk round to Derwent Water and take a gentle stroll part way along the lake shore.

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Sculpture commemorating the 100th anniversary of the National Trust

I was half tempted to continue on all round the lake, but that was a bit ambitious! Time was getting on so I turned round and retraced my steps, along the shore, back towards Portinscale and then over the bridge to my car.

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Another monument to the National Trust – a bench this time
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There’s the launch – not many passengers today
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I wandered lonely as a cloud …… (wrong lake, mind)
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Arriving back at my car I decided to drive into Keswick and visit a favourite bookshop – just enough time to browse and make a purchase before closing time.

Catbells, Maiden Moor and Blea Cragg

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Way back in 2009, during a day trip up to Keswick, we took the launch across Derwent Water and made an attempt on Catbells. This is a relatively small fell (shaped like a mountain but not high enough to be counted as one) which dominates the skyline on the west shore of Derwent Water. It’s a popular climb and one extolled by Alfred Wainwright for the variety of the climb and the views. In his guide to the North Western Fells he tells us

Catbells is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved. It’s popularity is well deserved: it’s shapely topknot attracts the eye, offering a steep but obviously simple scramble to the small summit.

Unfortunately due to a lack of time (and, it has to be admitted, a lack of fitness!!) we never made it to the top during that visit. So we were determined to put that right during our short break in Keswick last weekend. It was a grey day, but the weather forecast suggested that it was unlikely to rain, so we set out mid morning on Sunday and took the launch from Keswick over the lake to Hawse End, the nearest stop to the start of the walk.

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It’s only a short walk to the gate at the bottom of the fell.

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As we climbed, there were great views back down to Derwent Water and Keswick with Skiddaw and Blencathra on the horizon

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and, to the west, down Newlands Valley

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There were some tricky sections, which required a scramble up some steep sections of bare rock

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We made the lower of the two summits where we had stopped the last time we attempted the ascent. The main summit was straight ahead.

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Another steep climb with some scrambling, and we reached the summit.

Looking back along the path:

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The views were exceptional, even on a grey day

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It was only midday, so we decided to continue onwards to the next fell – Maiden Moor

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An easier climb than Catbells, the path being a little more gradual and less scrambling. It’s a broad moor rather than a rocky peak so there is no clearly defined summit. But we stopped for a bite to eat at the cairn which probably marks the highest point

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Looking back to Catbells

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After a short stop we decided to head towards the next visible high point, Blea Crag

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This isn’t counted as a “proper” fell in it’s own right, but part of High Spy. But it’s a great viewpoint with vistas along the Borrowdale valley and he high peaks.

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Unfortunately mist was rolling in

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so we decided we’d turn back towards Derwent Water.

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We descended via the steep path from Hause Gate, the Col between Maiden Moor and Catbells, and then followed the wooded lake shore to Hawse End to catch the launch back to Keswick

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