The Coniston fells and Coppermine Valley

Friday morning I was up early and after breakfast loaded my rucksack, booted up and set off for a walk up through Coppermines Valley and on to the fells.

Coniston used to be a centre for copper mining and slate quarrying (some quarrying still goes on today) and the industrial heritage is very obvious for a good part of the climb up to the Old Man by this route.

Mining for copper in the valley took place from around 1590, right up until the 1950’s. In the early days German miners had to be brought to Coniston and other parts of the Lake District to develop the mines as there were no English workers with the necessary skills. Al this activity has left it’s marks and scars on the landscape and there is plenty of Industrial archaeology to explore. I’ve always been interested in industrial history and having seen the exhibits on local mining in the Ruskin museum the day before I’d planned my route to take in both the fells and the remains of the old mines.

The Coniston Copper Project, funded by at £450,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, has worked on repairing and conserving ten historic copper-mining structures and they have an excellent website with lots of information on the history of mining in the Coniston area.

The Countrystride podcast (always worth a listen) also visited the valley recently with Mark Hatton, an expert on the history of mining in the Lakes.

As I climbed the steep “tourist path” I passed through the remains of former slate workings. Slate has been extracted up here since at least the 13th century.

There’s two types of slate – green and black. The attractive Coniston Green Slate was formed by volcanic activity over 400 million years ago and is found high in the fells. The Black slate originates from the sedimentary rocks lower down the valley.

I stopped to take a few photographs

Life up here was tough. The work was hard and conditions up on the fell were not exactly comfortable! There was little attention to workers’ safety – it was dangerous work – and inhalation of the dust from splitting the slate caused serious lung disease including silicosis and lung cancer.

Entry to an old mine

After making my way past the mine workings I reached Low Water, a small tarn in a glacial bowl with the summits of the Old Man and Brim fell looming over.

I stopped for a rest. I’d hardly seen a soul since I set off but a couple of walkers were coming up the path behind me (they’d parked on the Walla Crag road car park). We exchanged a few words and it turned out they were from St Helens (8 miles from where I live and where I used to work many years ago). Besides walking we had another interest in common – Rugby League. They were Saints fans, of course so a little banter was in order given that they’re our local rivals! Fitter and younger than me they set off up the steep path towards the summit while I took a rest and had a bite to eat. Then it was time for me to follow in their footsteps.

It’s a steep pull and I took my time, but the views looking back down to Low Water and Wetherlam were pretty good!

Eventually the summit came into view

Made it!

Coniston Old Man is a popular fell and there’s usually a stream of people making their way up the “tourist path” from Coniston or (more often) the Walla Crag Road car park. Today, I’d hardly seen anyone on the way up and had the summit to myself – a new experience! I stopped for a while to take in the extensive views.

Looking down to Coniston Water and over to Morecambe Bay
Dow Crag
Looking over to the Duddon estuary and the Irish Sea
The summits of the Scafells were veiled in cloud
Low Water and Wetherlam with a glimpse of Lever’s Water. The Eastern Fells in the distance were covered with cloud.

After a short while I set off along the ridge, heading to Brim Fell and then on to Swirl How

Looking back to the Old Man
Lever’s Water and Wetherlam
Seathwaite Tarn at the head of the Duddon Valley
Swirl How ahead – my next objective
Looking down to Lever’s Tarn and Coniston Water from Lever’s Hawse
Hi herdy! – some fearsome looking weather over the fells to the east
The summit of Swirl How

Reaching the summit there were a few other walkers around, but it was still quiet. I decided to head over to the nearby summit of Great Carrs which I hadn’t been up before. It’s an easy walk over from Swirl How

Looking down Greenburn Valley towards Little Langdale – some serious weather over there by the looks
Great Carrs

I could see the weather sweeping over the fells across Langdale and had my fingers crossed they’d stay over there. I’m not usually so optimistic!

Looks like the weather could be heading my way

I didn’t stop long on the top of Grey Carrs,

and taking the path back to Swirl How I diverted to look at the monument to the Wellington bomber that had crashed on the fell in 1944.

And then the weather arrived. The summits suddenly became covered in low cloud and the wind was picking up. Visibility deteriorated and for a while I was a little disorientated.

The walkers I’d met earlier had also been on Great Carrs and I’d passed them on my way to the summit. They told me that they were going to retrace their steps back down the Old Man. I’d intended to descend back into Coppermine Valley via the Prison Band down to Swirl Hawse and on to Lever’s Water. That can be a tricky descent and would be trickier if the rock was wet, but reaching Swirl How summit the rain seemed to have eased off, so, hoping the rain had passed over, I decided to make my way down. It didn’t quite pan out the way I’d hoped.

The cloud and came whipping across from Little Langdale over Swirl Hawse, hitting me side on as I descended down what was now wet and slippery rock and I was getting soaked – I was wearing my waterproof coat but hadn’t bothered to put on my overtrousers. Not a time to take photographs as both hands, and other parts of my anatomy, were needed to make sure I didn’t slip and fall down into the abyss!

I eventually made it to the hawse and took the much gentler path down towards Lever’s Water. The fells were now providing some shelter from the wind and rain., which eased off as I carried on down the path.

It had stopped raining by the time I reached the tarn
crossing over the dam. Lever’s Water was dammed and enlarged to create a reservoir for the copper mines which used water power to drain the mine working and for breaking the rock. The water level was low due tot he dry summer we’d had.
The path down the valley back towards Coniston
passing some waterfalls
The view down the valley with the remains of the copper mining activities
A reconstructed water wheel on the site of the old Bonser mine
Looking up Red Dell Beck with the remains of mine workings visible high up on the fell
Bridge at the bottom of Red Dell Beck
The copper clad rock and truck were created as part of a temporary art installation – Copper in our veins – to celebrate the area’s heritage in 2019
Remains of Upper Bonser Mill
The Coppermines Youth Hostel (I wasn’t staying here!) was once the mine manager’s office, stores and kitchen
“Irish Row” – miner’s cottages on the fellside.
Looking back up the valley

I carried on down the valley and eventually reached the village. After a quick call to the Co-op to pick up some supplies I returned to the hostel. It had been a long walk and I was ready for a shower and a rest!

A great day on the fells and some interesting history and industrial archaeology too.

A short break in Coniston

The week after our family holiday in the Midlands I was off again for a few days for a short solo break in Coniston where I’d booked into the Youth Hostel for a couple of nights. The weather forecast was mixed, especially the first day and at one point I contemplated cancelling. But, with summer coming to an end, I decided against it and take my chances.

The weather forecast for the first day proved to be correct when I arrived in a wet Coniston on the Thursday afternoon. There weren’t that many people around in the streets but the main car park was full and all the street parking spaces were taken. I eventually managed to park up but it was raining steadily so I decided to pay a visit to the Ruskin Museum and see how it looked later in the afternoon.

I spent a good hour mooching around.

The museum was founded as a memorial to John Ruskin, who spent the last years of his life at Brantwood on the east shore of Coniston Water and who died on 20 January 1900, by his secretary and friend, W G Collingwood. Many of the original exhibits were from Ruskin’s own collection of geological samples.

The exhibits cover the history of Coniston, it’s geology, industry and well known individuals, including Ruskin and Arthur Ransome. One wing is devoted to Donald Campbell and his attempts at the water speed record on Coniston Water in the 1960’s. He was tragically killed on 4 January 1967 when attempting to break the record Bluebird hit a wave at over 300 mph, flipped over and crashed upside down on the water and sank. I remember vividly watching the film of the crash on the TV news as a boy.

It was still raining as I left the museum so I decided to make my way down to the lake and have a brew in the Bluebird cafe on the lake shore.

I stopped for a while watching the Gondola leaving the jetty

before retreating to the cafe.

The rain had eased off so I decided I’d set off for a walk along the lakeside. I had thought about catching the launch, disembarking down past Torver and walking back, but I was between sailings, so decided to do a “there and back walk” past Coniston Hall and see how far I got.

Looking over to the Old Man
Looking across the lake to Brantwood, Ruskin’s former home
The Gondola sailing by
Jetty near Torver
Into the woods

I’d walked a couple of miles when the rain started agin so I turned round and retraced my steps back towards the cafe

Time for a warming brew.

Afterwards I made my way back to the car, drove the short distance to the hostel and checked in.

The rain cleared during the evening so I set off for a short walk down to the lake, along tot he jetty and then back through the village and along the path at the bottom of Yewdale.

Looking towards the Yewdale crags
Spotty sheep!
Evening light over Coniston Water

Yewdale, Holme Fell and Tarn Hows

The second day of my mini break in Coniston I’d decided on a lower level walk. I checked out of the hostel at about 9 and walked the short distance to Shepherd’s Bridge to set off down Yewdale. It was a gey start to the day, with low cloud up on the high fells, but the weather forecast looked promising for later in the day.

Holly How YHA

The walk down this very scenic valley is one of my favourite low level walks taking me through pleasant fields and woodland with good views over to the fells to the north.

The Yewdale fells over the fields to the left
Holme Fell ahead
through the woods
Holme Fell
Cloud over Wetherlam

I turned down towards Yew Tree Farm. Owned by the national Trust the farm featured in the film Miss Potter about Beatrix Potter starring Renée Zellweger. In the film it stood in for Hill Cottage where the author lived, but, although she owned the farm, she never actually lived there. The current tennants sell their Herdwick Hogget (young sheep between 1-2 years old) and Belted Galloway beef. They’ve been on TV a few times recently (including Countryfile on the BBC) – a good advert for their business I bet! We’ve bought their meat several times via the internet and I have to saya that we all think that their “Beltie Burgers” are the best burgers we’ve ever eaten.

Yew Tree farm – a very picturesque setting

Here’s some of their Herdies!


I took the path behind the farm and began the climb up Holme Fell

a couple of curious Herdies!

It’s not one of the bigger fells – just over 1000 feet – but it was a sharp, steep ascent.


but there are great views from the top. It was still grey and overcast but there were still 360 degree views


There was some peeking out over Wetherlam


Holme Fell is probably one of the best viewpoints for looking over Coniston Water


I stopped for a while, taking in the view and trating myself to a snack and then I started to make my way down the other side of the fell. This is the second time I’ve been up here but I still haven’t worked out the best way down. The path I took metered out and whichever way down I’ve taken inevitably results in some bog hopping.

This used to be slate quarrying country and there was plenty of evidence of the industry between the fell and Little Langdale.


My route followed a track that eventually headed east, over High Oxen fell (which isn’t very high!) back towards the Ambleside to Coniston road. The views over to the fells from this road was outstanding, especially as the cloud was clearing and the sun beginning to appear.


Reaching the main road I crossed over and took the track following the Cumbria Way towards Tarn Hows

Looking across to Holme Fell

I had considered walking over to Black Fell – another small fell that’s a great viewpoint – but decided against it for two reasons. My knee was starting to give me a bit of trouble and I was also keeping my eye on time as I had to catch the bus from Coniston back to Windermere at 4:30 to make sure I connected with my train back home. So I carried on following the Cumbria Way to Tarn Hows where I stopped for a bite to eat.


I deviated from the Cumbria Way following the western side of the tarn with the extensive views over to the Coniston Fells


At the end of the Tarn I followed the metaled track back towards Yewdale. The weather had really changed now with plenty of sunshine, and it was getting warm.


Making my way back down Yewdale I passed through a field on unusual Dutch spotted sheep


Carrying on down Yewdale Coniston Water came into view


Reaching Shepherd’s Bridge on the edge of Coniston, I had a couple of hours before my bus was due so I decided to walk over to the lake

Looking across to the fells from the path to the lake

On a sunny afternoon there were a lot of people enjoying themselves out on the lake


Time for a brew and a slice of cake in the lakeside cafe!

After enjoying people watching for a while by the lake, I headed back towards the village


had a mooch around and then joined the group of people waiting for the bus back to Windermere. It was running late but I had a chat with a couple of liverpudlians who were heading back to Bowness via Ambleside.

I arrived back in Windermere an hour before my train was due (I’d bought an advance ticket for the last direct train) so bought a few supplies from Booth’s supermarket and then sat and ate my purchases on the platform. The direct train ended up not being so direct. It was due to terminate at Manchester Airport but signalling problems (had somebody been nicking the copper cable again?) meant it would now terminate at Preston. Luckily it was only a short wait there before I was able to find a connection which got me back to Wigan only 15 minutes later than originally scheduled.

I’d had a good couple of days in Coniston and despite the slight delay on my way home using public transport was a welcome change from sitting in traffic. I’d have liked to stay another night given the fine weather, but I had a meeting the next day. September’s going to be busy, but I have a family holiday to look forward to at the end of the month

Dow Crag


When does summer end and autumn begin? Well for me, the August Bank Holiday signals the start of the transition between the seasons. September is the end of the school holidays and the prospect of a busy time at work is on the horizon. So the Bank Holiday weekend is the last shout of summer, but also a time when everywhere is busy, the motorways are jammed and half the rail network is shut down due to engineering works. So definitely not a time to be heading out. This year, though, I managed to extend the Bank Holiday by a couple of days and book a place in the Youth Hostel in Coniston. So on the Tuesday, when most people were back in work I took the direct train to Windermere and then caught the bus (an entertaining ride between Ambleside and Coniston on little wiggly roads encountering cars – how the driver didn’t hit them I’ll never know!). It took longer than it would if I’d driven, but I enjoyed being able to look out of the window and appreciate the scenery for once.

I arrived in Coniston about 12:30 and set out on the walk I’d planned, by passing the Old Man and heading up Dow Crag. The village was busy but I was soon away from the crowds, setting up across the fields that would take me up to the Walna Scar Road. I had thought I might follow the shore of Coniston Water down to Torver and cut up from there, a route I’d fancied trying for a little while, but I wanted to get to the hostel around 6 o’clock and I reckoned that would take me a little too long to achieve that objective.

Crossing the field of Belted Galloway cattle – there was a bull at the other end of the field!
Looking towards the Coniston Fells

and back down to Coniston Water

On the Walna Scar Road

Reaching the old track, about a mile after the quarry car park, I carried on climbing gradually and the Dow Crag ridge with Brown Pike and Buck Pike came into view .

I turned off a short distance before the Torver Bridge taking the path towards Goat’s Water and Goat’s Hawse. As I climbed the path, i started to encounter people coming down the path. A popular return leg from Coniston Old Man for those who park up at the Walna Scar Road quarry car park.

I eventually reached the foot of Goat’s Water with Dow Crag, a mighty wall of rock, popular with rock climbers, looming over the tarn.

It’s a tricky walk along the shore of the tarn, over the boulders. The ascent up to the Hawse started at the top of the tarn.

Looking back to Goat’s Water from the top of the Hawse

over to Dow Crag

and over to the north west I could see the Scafells, although the summit of the Pike was obscured by cloud

Looking over to Swirl How and Grey Friar

and looking to the east, there’s the Old Man

It was a grey afternoon and I could see rain falling over to the east and also over the Scafells. I was keeping my fingers crossed it wouldn’t blow over and although there were a few drops, it never really started to rain over my chosen route.

Looking across Goat’s Water down to Coniston Water. Looks like it’s raining over Grizedale forest.

I stopped for a short while for a bite to eat and then started my climb up towards Dow Crag

Dow crag is the first of three summits on a ridge to the west of Goat’s Water. It consists of steep, rocky crags that plummet down to the bottom of the valley, the west side is a much gentler slope. It’s a much quieter along this ridge than on the old Man. There was a couple taking the same route but that was it, although I saw a walker and three mountain bikers coming the other way after I’d reached Brown Pike.

Approaching the rocky summit of Dow Crag

Looking back to Swirl How and Grey Friar

and across to the Old Man.

Getting over the summit of Dow Crag is a bit tricky but it’s easy walking after that.

A good view down to Coniston Water opened up. Definitely some rain falling over that way

After the summit I passed the steep gullies beloved of “crag rats”. They’d be a quick way down but that’s not exactly advisable!

can you spot the “crag rat”?
zooming in

I couldn’t help keep looking back towards the Scafells

The next summit along the ridge was Buck Pike. After crossing over the summit I could see down to Blind Tarn. It got its name as it has no apparent inflow or outflow

As usual, there were quite a few Herdies up on the fell


The summit of Brown Pike where I met another walker tackling the ridge from the opposite direction


Starting my descent down Brown Pike, the last of the three summits

I was soon back on the Walna Scar Road heading down towards Coniston

There’s the Torver Bridge


Carrying on I eventually reached the Walna Scar Quarry car park. They’d done it up a bit since the last time I was there and had started charging. A lot of people start their ascent of the Old Man from here, where they’re already getting on for 200 metres above the lake saving some climbing.

This was the view over to the fells.

After the car park I was walking on tarmac for a while, before taking a path down towards MIner’s Bridge at the bottom end of Copper MIne Valley.

Looking down to Coniston village
The view along Copper Mine Valley

After crossing over the Miner’s Bridge, I followed the track down towards Coniston

looking back to the bridge

and then took the path along Yewdale, passing the hostel and then doubling back to check in. It was about 6;30 pm, only a little later than planned.

This time I’d reserved one of their land pods – a kind of cross between a pod and a tent. I think they look like some sort of alien spaceship – but I didn’t end up getting abducted!

A Coniston Round

Last Friday I managed to get out again for a walk. This time I decided to go up to Coniston with the intention of climbing Dow Crag and then on to the Old Man of Coniston. I ended up walking a little further than that!


I parked up in the village and then cut across the fields to join the Walna Crag road just after the old quarry car park.


I crossed the old pack horse bridge after which the path started to steepen


My first objective over to the right!


Dow Crag is at the end of a ridge with two other peaks – Brown Pike and Buck Pike. As I started up towards the first of these there were great views over to nearby fells and valleys – last time I was up here just over 12 months ago I couldn’t see a thing as the fells were covered in low cloud.

I carried on, reaching the top of the pass turning right to start climbing up towards the ridge. Looking west to the Duddon estuary


The Duddon Valley


The Scafells over to the northeast. They would soon be shrouded in cloud.


I carried on along the path towards Buck Pike. Although the east side of the ridge consists of steep, rocky crags that plummet down to the bottom of the valley, the west side is a much gentler slope, so the walking wasn’t difficult .


Looking across to the Old Man


and down to Coniston Water


As I climbed up to Buck Pike, looking down I had a view of Blind Tarn. It got its name as it has no apparent inflow or outflow


Dow Crag ahead.


Unlike during my last walk up here, I could see the rocky crags, a favourite haunt of rock climbers. But none were evident.


Looking down one of the gullies


The summit of Dow Crag is crowned with a pyramid of rocks. Despite my dislike of heights I clambered up carefully, gritting my teeth and being careful not to get too close to the edge – I’m no crag rat!


Looking down I could see Goat’s Water, the large tarn in the valley below


I’d seen a few people as I’d made my way up from Coniston following the same route as me. Some had passed me and raced ahead while with others, walking at a similar pace and occasionally stopping to take in the view (an excuse for a rest?) we kept overtaking each other. As I reached Dow Crag a large party were coming up from the other direction.


After a brief break for a bite to eat I carried on. The path initially descends to Goats Hawse before climbing up to The Old Man. Last time I’d descended down into the valley and then back to Coniston but this time I carried on climbing. There were plenty of people coming down the other way, most taking the path down to Goat’s Water.


Looking back to Dow Crag from the hawse


and down to Goat’s Water


Climbing the path up the Old Man from the Hawse – I could see a lot of people ahead.


It was very busy on the summit. The route up to the Old Man from Coniston is very popular. It wasn’t as crowded as when I’d climbed Snowdon a few weeks ago – there isn’t a train! – but there were plenty of people who’d made it to the top.


I stopped for a while to take in the view and snap a few photos. The weather was improving as the cloud that had been threatening was clearing.

Looking down to Coniston and Coniston Water


Copper Mine Valley


Down to Low Water


The cloud hadn’t cleared from the Scafells


Dow Crag


Looking along Brim Fell and the path to Swirl How


My original plan had been to descend down the “tourist path” to Coniston and have a brew in a cafe, but with the weather being so good and the fells looking so inviting, I decided to carry on along the ridge over Brim Fell to Swirl How and then descend down via Lever’s Water.

I didn’t have to walk too far from the summit to get away from the crowds. Very few people were straying this way or coming from the opposite direction.


Looking down to Lever’s water


and, on the other side of the ridge, down to Seathwaite Tarn.


It had taken less than an hour to reach the summit.


Time to take in the views!

The cloud had cleared from the Scafells by now.


Looking over Lingmoor and Little Langdale (where I’d walked the previous week) towards the Helvelyn range and the Fairfield Horseshoe.


Looking back along the ridge to Brim Fell and the Old Man


and then there was Weatherlam, the last fell on the ridge.


I didn’t quite have the summit to myself, but almost. I chatted to another, younger, walker who had been following the same route as myself and there were a couple of other walkers taking various routes. But it was very peaceful compared to the Old Man.

With the weather so good – it’s rare to get such a good day in the Lakes – it looked very inviting, so another change of plan. I had to descend down the “Prison Band” which is a slightly tricky route, to Swirl Hawse and had then intended to follow the path down to Lever’s Water and then down Coppermine Valley back to Coniston. Instead, I decided to carry on and tackle Wetherlam to complete the round.

Loooking towards Little Langdale , Pike o’ Blisco and the Langdale Pikes from the hawse


Onwards and upwards to Wetherlam


I passed a mother with her two young sons coming up the Prison Band as I was descending and an older couple with their dog coming from Wetherlam and when I reached the summit I met the young man who I’d been talking to on Swirl How. But that was it.

Here a a few photos of the views from the summit of Wetherlam. They just got better as the day went on!


Looking across to the Old Man


I took the path heading southwards along the ridge of the fell which descends fairly gradually towards the Yewdale fells, turning down Hole Rake to Coppermine Valley and then back to Coniston. It’s a fair walk, about two and a half miles to the village

There were outstanding views to Coniston Water


The path down Coppermine Valley


Looking back up the valley towards the fells.


By the time I made it back to the village, all the cafes had closed for the day. The pubs were open, of course, but were very busy with lots of people sitting outside enjoying the sunshine.

It had been probably the longest walk I’d done for a long. I gone a lot further than I’d originally intended, but when the going is good, the good keep going! And I’d thoroughly enjoyed it.

And I hadn’t quite finished. When I’m in Coniston I have to go and have a look at the lake. Especially on such a sunny evening.


Coniston to Black Crag via Yewdale and Tarn Hows


Last Wednesday promised to be a fine day, so we drove from our cottage in Cartmel over to Coniston. A couple of miles from the village I had to stop to snap a photo of the Lake.


We parked up on the edge of Coniston, donned our boots and set off on the path up Yewdale.


There’s the Old Man – no cloud on top today!


A good view of Holme Fell ahead


Carrying on up the valley through pleasant woodland


Looking across the valley to Wetherlam and Tilberthwaite


Helvelyn and Fairfield in the distance


Looking back towards Wetherlam


and there’s the Langdale Pikes appearing over the top of Holme Fell

After an hour or so we reached Tarn Hows which was created in the 19th Century by James Garth Marshall, at that time the owner of the Monk Coniston estate, from a number of smaller tarns. Today it’s a popular tourist spot with a car park that makes the relatively easy walk around the tarn accessible, and, especially as it was a fine day during the school holidays, so there were quite a few other people around


We stopped for a bite to eat before setting off along the path that skirts the western shore of the tarn.


At the top end of the lake we made the decision to carry on and climb up onto Black Fell.

After walking up hill through scrub land and through woodland


Black Crag, the summit of the modest fell, came into view


We climbed to the summit which is reputably one of the best viewpoints in the Lake District. And on a day like last Wednesday I would definitely not argue with that!


The views in every direction were astounding. I snapped a panorama with my phone. You’ll have to click on the photos to get an idea of what we could see, even if a photograph really can’t do the views justice.

Looking towards the Coniston Fells, the Langdales, Helvelyn and the Fairfield Horseshoe


and towards the Eastern Fells, and four lakes (Windermere, Esthwaite Water, Coniston Water and Tarn Hows)


No question it had been worth the effort to walk up to here.


We stopped for a while, soaking it all in before turning round and retracing our steps back down to Coniston, taking the path along the eastern side of Tarn Hows this time


and then back down Yewdale


Getting close to Coniston


Reaching the village we decided to grab a meal before driving back to Cartmel and, although it was busy (school holidays, remember) we managed to bag a table in the Yewdale Inn. A bit of a wait for our food, but worth it.

We were lucky to have arrived just before rush hour!


What a great day!

A walk along Coniston Water


The final morning of my short break in Coniston, I decided to spend a few hours taking a walk along the lake. It was a grey day, but still pleasant walking beside the water.

Starting near the jetty I cut across to Coniston Hall and then followed the lakeside path through Torver Woods before retracing my  steps before paying a brief visit to the village and heading back to Shepherd’s Bridge to collect my car and set off back home.








Coniston Round


This was a walk I’d wanted to do for a while now – a traverse of the Coniston Fells taking in the Old Man, Brim Fell, Swirl How and Wetherlam. I’d originally booked at the Shepherd’s Bridge B&B for two nights but extended it for another one when the weather forecast was looking better for the Thursday and I wanted a good chance of decent weather and good views.

It was going to be a long day so I set out at 9:30. I’d decided to tackle the round from East to West, starting at Wetherlam and ending on the Old Man. This was mainly because there was a steep section between Wetherlam and Swirl How and I thought it would be easier on my knees going up rather than down.

I started by heading up Copper Mine Valley. The name betrays the area’s history. Coniston was an industrial area from Elizabethan times (and possibily earlier) with copper mines and slate quarries in the valley and on the sides of the fells – and the landscape bears witness to this.



It must have been an extremely hard life working up on and amongst the fells.

I turned off the valley floor following the path leading across the pass to Tilberthwaite before cutting across to climb up the path towards the first fell I would traverse – Wetherlam.

To my left there was a good view of The Old Man of Coniston


As I climbed views opened up behind me back over to Coniston Water


I continued to climb – the summit began to come into view


I started to get a good view of Swirl How


I eventually reached the summit.

Looking over towards the Scafells


Great views with most of the major Lake District fells visible as well as Windermere, Esthwaite Water and Coniston Water.



It was windy on the top so I found a sheltered spot to have a bite to eat before setting off towards my next destination – Swirl How.  This required descending down to Swirl Hawse before the steep climb and scramble up the Prison Band.


I don’t know why this broad ridge is called the Prison Band, but for a while it seemed I had been sentenced to hard labour!

I was up on the summit quicker than I expected, again being battered by the wind. But the views were good.


After a short stop to chat with a couple who’d arrived at the top just before me, and who took a photo of me by the cairn (so I could prove to family and friends that I got there!) I carried on walking along the top of Swirl How before descending down to Lever Hawse and climbing up the next high point – Brim Fell.



Reaching the summit I headed on towards the final fell to conquer, the highest of the Coniston Fells, the Old Man of Coniston.


So another short descent before the climb up to the final summit.

When I made it to the top it was quite busy (it always is!) and windy. The views back across the ridge and down to Coniston Water made it worth it!


And there was Dow Cragg that I’d climbed the previous day


Now it was time to descend back down to Coppermine Valley. It’s a steep track up to the top and, so, down from the summit!

Looking down to Low Water, the small tarn in the basin below the summits of the Old Man and Brim Fell


Continuing to descend I passed the ruins and remains of the slate quarries passing a few tourists walking in the opposite direction who asked me “how far is it tot he top?”.

It was quite a walk down to the bottom of the valley but eventually the end came into view


Reaching the village it was warm and sunny so I called into the Co-op to buy a couple of cold drinks and returned to Shepherd’s Bridge where I spent some time relaxing in the sunshine in the garden.


A challenging walk but I’d made it in good time and an ambition achieved!

Coniston round.jpg

Dow Crag


Breakfast on the morning of the second day of my break in Coniston and the rain had gone. The weather forecast threatened it would return mid to late afternoon so straight after breakfast I packed my rucksack and made an early start.  I’d decided to walk over Dow (pronounced Doe) Crag, a mountain with towering crags beloved by “crag rats” (rock climbers) but which has a gentler side for the less adventurous. It’s on the opposite side of a col from The Old Man of Coniston with a large tarn, Goat Water, in the bottom of the valley.

I walked through Coniston village and set off up Walna Scar road, an old track that connects Coniston and Seathwaite and would have originally been used by pack horses transporting slate from the many quarries in the fells. Today the first section is a narrow metalled road leading up to a car park in an old quarry. Used by many walkers to save some climbing. I, however, was walking up and it was hard work as it was very steep before levelling off.

I passed through the car park and continued on along what was now a rough track. I was soon up on the lonely fells and on my way up only saw two other people – both fell runners – one running in each direction.

Climbing up towards the summit of the pass I crossed over the beck taking water from Goat Water tarn down to the valley via this attractive little stone bridge (listed as Torver Bridge on the OS map).


I had a good view over to Dow Crag by now, but could see low cloud starting to threaten.


I carried on, reaching the top of the pass turning right to start climbing up towards the ridge when, sure enough, the cloud rolled in.


The path took me up towards a ridge with several summits – Brown Pike, Buck Pike and, finally, Dow Crag itself. A good walk and although the east side of the ridge consists of steep, rocky crags that plummet down to the bottom of the valley, the west side is a much gentler slope. So the walking wasn’t too difficult but for the entire period of my traverse I was in low cloud and visibility was poor. However, the path was well defined so there was minimal chance of getting lost or falling over the edge of the crags.

On a fine day there would have been excellent views over towards the Old Man and the other fells, but I could hardly see a thing!

I descended down into Goat’s Hawse and out of the cloud. And, for short while, the cloud lifted from Dow Crag


and the Old Man.


Looking down to Goats Water


However, the tops of the other nearby  fells were still shrouded in mist


I was tempted to climb up the path to the summit of the Old Man, but I’d be up there the next day so took the path down into the valley and then along the east shore of Goat’s Water. Looking back I could see that the cloud had returned, covering the top of Dow Crag and the Old Man.


As I descended good views down to Coniston Water opened up


Reaching the Walna Scar Road and set off back down towards Coniston.

On reaching the car park, rather than retrace my route down the metalled road I cut across country descending through the fields towards Consiton Water.


Looking back across to the fells where the cloud was starting to lift.


I cut across to Bowhamstead, a small hamlet to the south of Coniston Village, then walked across the fields to the Jetty


where I stopped for a brew at the Bluebird Cafe.


Oh, and a slice of cake.

I rested for a while looking over the lake then set back to Sheperd’s Bridge. I hadn’t been back long when the “promised” rain arrived, a couple of hours later than forecast.  So  although it was a grey day and visibility was poor on the top, (so not so good for photos), it was a good walk.

An evening walk

The rain cleared a couple of hours after my walk and the sun decided to show it’s face for a while. This was the view from the garden of my B&B



I needed to get myself something to eat, so set out towards the village, passing St Andrew’s church on the way. John Ruskin is buried in the church yard and Donald Campbell, who died attempting to break the water speed record on Coniston Water, is buried in a newer graveyard a short distance away.


Just round the corner, on the main street, I went into the Black Bull for my meal. The pub brews it’s own prize winning ales, but I was disappointed to find that they didn’t sell non-alcoholic brews so had to make do with a Diet Coke.

It was a pleasant evening, so after eating, I decided to stroll down to the Lake for a short walk along the shore and back through the fields to my B&B.

The lake looked good in the late evening light.

IMG_6729.jpgIMG_6732.jpg Walking back through the fields I passed some locals


Back in my room I settled down for the evening and watched a film on the Smart TV.  Not long after the rain returned. I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would have gone by the morning.