Coniston to Black Crag via Yewdale and Tarn Hows

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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.

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

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

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A good view of Holme Fell ahead

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Carrying on up the valley through pleasant woodland

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Looking across the valley to Wetherlam and Tilberthwaite

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Helvelyn and Fairfield in the distance

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Looking back towards Wetherlam

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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

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

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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

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

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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!

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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

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

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

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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

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and then back down Yewdale

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Getting close to Coniston

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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!

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What a great day!

A walk around Cartmel

Our first full day staying in Cartmel, we decided to get out for a walk. Our cottage was at the foot of the limestone ridge of Hampsfell, so we set out on the path which ran right past our front door and which would take us across the fields and up the hill.

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As we climbed, looking back, we could see the group of buildings where we were staying

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It didn’t take too long before we started to approach the top of the ridge which is covered by an expanse of limestone pavement

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It was windy on top of the ridge and given the ways the trees had grown, it clearly usually is!

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Walking along the ridge Hampsfell Hospice came into view

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The building of the folly was commissioned by the pastor of Cartmel “for the shelter and entertainment of travellers” in 1846.

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It commands 360 degree views over to the high Lakeland fells to the north and Morecambe Bay to the south, particularly from the roof, which can be accessed by climbing some rather precarious stone steps.

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We stopped for a while, sheltering from the wind while we had a bite to eat and taking in the views. Long range visibility wasn’t too good but we could still make out the fells in the distance.

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and over the Bay – although the tide was out revealing the extensive sands and mudflats

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Looking down to Cartmel

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After our break we set off again walking along the ridge. Passing other walkers, as is usual, we exchanged greetings with other walkers and a couple of fell runners. Then I heard a shout a short distance away. Someone wanted to speak to us so we waited and were joined by an elderly lady. She asked where we were heading and as we were taking the same path she asked whether we minded if she joined us and if we might help her to climb a difficult stile on the descent. Of course we agreed. As we walked we chatted and it transpired that this sprightly lady was 86 years old. She had always been a keen walker and was still getting out and about, today having walked up from Kents Bank, a good few miles away. When we reached the stile she got over without any assistance but we were there to provide reassurance and help to arrest a fall in case she slipped.

Here she is on the left of the photo

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We continued down hill with her, enjoying her company, chatting and exchanging experiences. Reaching the bottom of the hill we continued in the direction of Cartmel and parted company when we reached a cemetery where her husband, who had died only 2 years before, was buried. She was going to visit his grave. We said our goodbyes and continued on. A chance encounter on the hills which had been a rather lovely experience. I hope I’m as efit and energetic as this lovely lady and able to get out on the fells when I’m 86 (no! I’ve a few more years to go!)

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Another mile or so along a quiet road and we reached Cartmel in the early afternoon and we decided it was a good time to stop and have a brew! Refreshed, we decided to continue our walk, heading across the racecourse and along the tracks through the woods and fields towards another hill, Howbarrow to the west of the small town.

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After a stiff climb we reached the summit of Howbarrow

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It’s a modest hill, only 558 feet high, but we were again greeted by extensive views over the Bay (the tide now in) and over to the Fells

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Looking over the Leven estuary

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My photos across the bay didn’t come out so good as the light had turned flat and grey and we were looking into the sun.

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We had several options to return to Cartmel, all a little convoluted, which tested my rusty map reading skills. Our route took us through pleasant countryside of green fields and woodland

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and small groups of farms and other buildings

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Eventually returning to, and crossing, the racecourse

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(not sure I’d have been able to clear the fences!)

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We returned to the village to pick up a few supplies from the small, but well stocked, convenience store, before heading back to our accommodation.

A good “figure of 8” walk, about 10 miles in length but not too taxing.

Spring Break

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It’s been a long haul from Christmas this year with Easter being so late – I wish they’d fix the date! So I was glad to be able to take a week off work last week to go away for a few days. We found ourselves a cottage for 4 nights just outside Cartmel at the foot of Hampsfell.

Cartmel is a small, attractive village to the north of the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay, which is something of a “honeypot” with an old Priory church, old houses and other buildings, a number of touristy shops, a Michelin 2 star restaurant, four pubs and the smallest racecourse in the UK. The village is just to the south of the Lake District National Park, although our cottage, one of a small group of properties, was just inside the National Park boundary. Historically the Cartmel peninsula, together with nearby Furness, the other side of the Leven estuary, were part of Lancashire. Cut off from the rest of the county the area was often known as “Lancashire over the sands”. Following local government reorganisation in 1974 it was absorbed by the newly created county of Cumbria.

This old map shows the pre-1974 county boundaries and includes “Lancahire over the sands”

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Although seemingly cut off from the rest of the county the area was accessed via routes over the sands of Morecambe Bay. The tide recedes from the bay leaving behind a vast area of sand and mudflats criss-crossed by a number of river channels and notorious for it’s quicksands. Until the Furness railway was opened in 1857, crossing the sands was a major route of communication. It was a dangerous crossing, though, and many people were trapped by quicksands and a rapidly rising tide, losing their lives. According to Wikipedia Cartmel apparently means “sandbank by rocky ground“, from the Old Norse kartr (rocky ground) and melr, reflecting it’s location a few miles north of the bay.

We were lucky to have some decent weather – cool, but sunny – so managed to have a good break taking in some walks, a visit to a stately home and even some art! So, lots to write up, but for a starter here’s a few photos we took in and around the village and our cottage.

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A walk from Staveley

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The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley,
(To a Mouse, Robert Burns)

Last Saturday I was due to travel up to Scotland to spend a few days walking and chilling out on the the Isle of Arren. My bags were packed. I was expecting rain and perhaps a little snow but, hey, that’s Scotland. When I got up I turned on the TV and watched the BBC weather forecast for the week ahead. It wasn’t good. A storm was forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday (the latter being the day I was due to travel home). So besides being unlikely to get in any decent walking there was a good chance I wouldn’t be able to get home as planned. So, regrettably, I decided that the most sensible option was to cancel. This turned out to have been the right thing to do as when the storm hit the ferries to the mainland were cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was disappointing to miss out but I knew it was a gamble when I came up with the idea a few weeks ago. Arran will still be there in a few months when I’m looking at rearranging my trip.

I changed my plans, only taking a couple of days off work. The first of these, the Monday, looked like it might be a reasonable day, a lull before the storm hit. So I decided to the take the opportunity to get out for a walk. I took the train up to Staveley and set out for a wander on the low fells at the bottom of Kentmere. On the train from Oxenholme I could see that there had been a snowfall overnight, but there were signs that it was thawing. I wasn’t planning on going up on the high fells, so I wasn’t expecting any difficulties.

Leaving the train station I cut across to the old Mill Yard and stocked up with some goodies from the artisan bakery before crossing and then walking along the river to Barley Bridge.

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A short walk along the quiet road and through a gate and I was on the path that took me steeply up the hill heading towards the fells.

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I’d decided to make Brunt Knott my first objective. I’ve climbed it a couple of times before and on a clear day there are great views up the Kentmere Valley, over to the Coniston Fells and the Langdales in the west and towards the Howgill fells to the east.

It was several degrees above freezing so the snow was rapidly disappearing, although there was a smattering of the white stuff on the top of Brunt Knott and Potter Fell

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After passing Brunt Knott farm,

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I took a steep, direct route up to the summit and was pleased to be able to get my boots into some snow. Reaching the trig point I was greeted by a good view of the snow clad fells of the Kentmere horseshoe

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I took a more gradual route back down. It was wet, muddy and slippery so I had to be careful to stay upright. Luckily I had my walking poles with me.

I retraced my steps along the quiet road and made my way back up Potter Fell towards Potter Tarn

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The skies were clouding over, but, looking back to the west, I could still make out the Langdale Pikes and Coniston Fells in the distance

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I took the path around the tarn and then headed up the hill towards my next objective, another tarn, Gurnal Dubs

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Like Potter Tarn it’s a natural water feature that was dammed to create a small reservoir for local industry. In the case of Gurnal Dubs three smaller natural ponds (or “dubs”) were swallowed up to make one larger lake.

It was blustery on the exposed fell and I took shelter behind the boathouse while I had a warm drink of coffee from my flask

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I walked along the lake and then retraced my steps back towards Potter Tarn

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I followed the path parallel the stream from the tarn down the valley towards the River Kent

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A short walk along the country lanes

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and then I cut across the fields down to the River. Crossing over, I followed the path back towards Staveley

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Back at the old Mill Yard, I had time for a brew in Wilf’s Cafe before heading back to the station to catch my train back home.

It had been a good walk and helped me forget my disappointment at missing out on my planned trip to Scotland.

A walk from Grasmere

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On Sunday I drove up to Grasmere for my first more challenging walk of 2019. I had a couple of options in mind for my route, leaving the final decision until I arrived and had a better idea of what conditions were like. After I’d parked up the going looked generally good with only a relatively light covering of snow on the high peaks so I decided on the route that would take me up Stone Arthur, a summit which looms over Grasmere village to the east, up on to Great Rigg, then south along the ridge over Heron Pike, down into Rydal village and then back to Grasmere via the “Coffin Route”.

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View of Stone Arthur from Grasmere village

The route up to Stone Arthur is well trod – it’s a popular climb up from the village, and most of the path was “engineered”. It was a steep climb, though up the side of the hill.

As the temperature was just above freezing, I was well wrapped up, but the energetic climb meant I was heating up, so the hat and gloves came off and I opened up my coat.

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The view back down to Grasmere
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Approaching the summit
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The view from the summit of Stone Arthur

On reaching its summit, it becomes clear that it’s really just a rocky outcrop at the western end of the ridge that continues to climb up to Great Rigg, a more significant peak that’s hidden when viewed from the village. After a coffee from my flask and a bite to eat I carried on. It was getting cold now on the exposed ridge with a fairly strong breeze blowing and the air temperature had dropped. Snow was clearly visible on the summit of Great Rigg

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as well as Fairfield and the other summits at the head of the Rydal valley. So I fastened up my coat and the hat and gloves went back on!

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I climbed up the ridge – and easier walk than the climb up to Stone Arthur and made the final ascent up the snow covered summit of Great Rigg using my walking poles to stop myself slipping.

Reaching the top there were great views, although cloud over to the east obscured the Coniston and Langdale fells to some extent.

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View towards Fairfield
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Looking over to Dove Crag
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Looking west
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Looking south towards Windermere

Great Rigg is one of the summits on the Fairfield Horseshoe I’d walked in quite different conditions last summer, but this time I wasn’t going to attempt the full circuit. Instead I set off south along the ridge heading towards the village of Rydal. The walk wasn’t too strenuous, at least until the steep descent off the ridge.

Looking over towards Dollywagon Pike and Helvelyn in the distance.

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The next peak was Heron Pike and looking backwards as I neared it’s summit there was an excellent view back to Fairfield and the other snow covered peaks at the head of the valley.

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Carrying along the ridge there was a good view over to Red Screes in the east

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Windermere was spread out before me to the south

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and Grasmere to the west, with the mountains above the Langdale Valley beyond

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Carrying on, there was Rydal Water

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I descended steeply down towards Rydal village (using my poles to try to save my knees from too much agony), following a group of walkers, one of them carrying a baby in a sling in front of his body; an early introduction to the fells!

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Reaching the small village of Rydal, I passed Wordsworth’s final residence, Rydal Mount

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I took a short diversion to Rydal Hall, strolling through the gardens.

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They have a very excellent cafe where I was able to top up my flask with a strong coffee – a shot of caffeine to re-enegerise for the last 2 or 3 miles along the Coffin Route back to Grasmere.

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Many years ago, before the road along Rydal Water and Grasmere had been constructed this is the route that the dead would be transported from Rydal, which didn’t have it’s own church and graveyard, to be buried in the grounds of St Oswald’s in Grasmere village.

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Coming into Grasmere village, I passed another of Wordsworth’s former homes, Dove Cottage

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and while I was passing St Oswald’s, I thought I’d pay homage by visiting his final resting place

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as almost next door there’s the Gingerbread shop. It’s compulsory to take home a sample – a good way to earn Brownie points!

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I had a mooch through the small community and then made my way back to the car for the drive home. 10 miles done according to the pedometer. And hard ones at that.

A walk from Kirkby Lonsdale

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I had a week in Ireland this week cancelled and as I hadn’t anything particularly urgent that needed doing, I thought that, weather permitting, we might get out for a walk one day. Checking the forecast, Monday looked the best bet as it was expected to be a decent day, so that clinched it. Where to go? Given the limited hours of light in December we decided not to go to far and stick to a low level route, limiting the mileage. We’d not been to Kirkby Lonsdale before, even though it’s not so far away (just over an hour’s drive, M6 willing!), so after a little research decided on a route starting from there.

Kirkby Lonsdale is a picturesque market town in Cumbria, close to the boundaries of both Lancashire and North Yorkshire and just inside  the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s noted for it’s olde worlde town centre, a viewpoint beloved of Ruskin and Turner and an old bridge. 

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There’s plenty of free parking on the edge of town, either side of the “Devil’s Bridge” but when we arrived on a Monday morning in December, I was surprised to see how many cars were parked up. However, there were a few spaces left so we parked up and donned our boots ready for a walk. I was expecting it to be muddy so we’d brought our gaiters and a couple of walking poles – it turned out that this was a good move!

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Before setting off we had a look at the Devil’s Bridge which was built in the 12th or 13th century, and is now a scheduled ancient monument.  At one time it was the only bridge over the Lune for miles around.

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There are quite a few Devil’s Bridges around the country, all built around the same period and all have a story associated with them explaining the name.  At Kirkby Lonsdale the tale goes that one night a cow belonging to an old woman strayed across the river and as there was no crossing point on the wide, fast flowing river, she couldn’t get it back. The devil then appeared and offered to build a bridge overnight t if he could have the soul of the first one across. However, the old woman fooled him by sending her dog across first. The devil was so angry he disappeared in a cloud of smoke never to return. 

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The bridge is a popular spot over the River Lune for “tombstoning”, which involves leaping from height into water. Over the years a number people have been killed here and there’s a local bye-law forbidding the practice, but, apparently, this doesn’t stop some foolish thrill seekers. So perhaps the Devil has had the last laugh.

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We set off , crossing the main road and then heading off south through the fields. There was a good view over to the Kentmere horseshoe.

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Passing a small group of cottages we followed the track which led towards Sellet Mill. 
The narrow footpath passed between two stonewalls and was clearly an old right of way which looked like it had been cobbled at one time. About a third of the way down a stream came in from the left and the path continued alongside it. “I wonder if it ever gets flooded?” We soon found out. Not much further on the path was covered with a fast running stream. Should we turn back or chance it and continue? We took the latter option. We almost regretted this decision as the water was quite deep in places and  it wasn’t easy to avoid getting our boots submerged or slipping and falling over. The walking poles now came in very handy and we managed to stay upright and not get too wet thanks to the gaiters. After what seemed a long way the path re-emerged on the right hand bank and we were able to continue on dry land until we reached Sellet Mill. 

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From here we took the path heading west through the fields until we reached the road and then followed a narrow minor road towards Whittington, a pleasant old village. There were good views over the fields across to Ingleborough and other hills in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

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and we passed some interesting old buildings.

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Reaching the old church, which stands on the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle, we decided to stop and have a bite to eat. We had a quick look inside the church. The oldest part is the tower, which dates from the early 16th century. The rest was largely rebuilt in 1875 in the usual Victorian Gothic revival style. 

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There was some rather nice stained glass.

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Afterwards we found a bench in the graveyard and sat down to eat our pork pies, taking in the view on a pleasant, sunny, afternoon.

Well nourished we resumed our walk, taking the road through the village and then followed a path that cut eastwards across the fields towards the River Lune.

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After recent heavy rains, the river was deep and flowing fast and the banks were muddy and slippy. In a few places it was close to the river and we were once again glad I’d put our walking poles in the boot of the car that morning.

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We followed the river bank back to Devil’s Bridge and then continued on the riverside path as we wanted to have a look around the small town and also to visit the viewpoint known as “Ruskin’s View”.

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After about a mile we reached the “Radical Steps” that would take us up to the viewpoint. The steps were built in 1819 by Francis Pearson, a local Liberal. The locals came to call them the Radical Steps on account of his political leanings. There are allegedly 86 stone steps, although we didn’t count them. They were rather steep and uneven and probably easier to go up than down.

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At the top of the steps we reached the edge of the churchyard and were able to take in “Ruskin’s View”. Painted by Turner, in 1875, John Ruskin described the panorama as ‘one of the loveliest views in England, therefore in the world’.

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Even though the river valley was now in the shade, it was certainly a lovely view, but I think Ruskin was rather overstating it.

After taking in the view we walked through the church yard and had a quick look around inside St Mary’s church

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and then wandered into town where we found a cafe to have a brew before heading back to the car for the drive home. It was only 5 o’clock but the winter sun having already set it felt much later. But we’d had a good day out.

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A walk on the Far Eastern Fells

After a good meal in the Brotherswater Inn on Sunday evening I settled down with a good book before bed. I woke to a beautiful, sunny, if frosty, morning. Down to a hearty breakfast with a great view over the fells.

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After checking out I drove the short distance to the car park at the end of Hartsop village. There were already a few vehicles parked up but the overnight stay meant I was able to get a decent start (and a car parking space) without setting off from home at an early hour and enduring the traffic on the M61 and M6 where the rush hour starts around 6 o’clock! The plan was to head up Hayeswater Gill and climb up towards High Street and take in the Knott, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike and High Raise.

It was a glorious morning as I set off on the steady climb up Hayeswater Gill. There were great views back towards Fairfield, Helvelyn and the neighbouring fells.
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But I could see thick cloud gathering over in the west.

On the way up the gill I passed this curious shepherd’s building with a moss covered roof.

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I reached the bridge that crosses the beck just before Hayeswater and stopped to take a photograph back down the valley

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I crossed the bridge and took the path up the side of the hill. It was rather boggy in places.

Looking down to Hayeswater as I climbed

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and another shot of the fells to the west

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The path climbed until it reached the track from Angle Tarn which is part of the Coast to Coast route. Consequently it had been “engineered” and much drier underfoot. Turning along this path I continued to climb heading up towards the Knott. I bypassed the summit (but would climb it on the way down), carrying on to the ridge known as the Straights of Riggendale.

Reaching the top of the ridge I forked off left heading towards my first summit of the day Kidsey Pike.

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The end of Haweswater, the most easterly of the Lakes, also came into view.
The lake is actually a reservoir, constructed by the Manchester Corporation back in the 1920’s and 30’s. This was highly controversial at the time as the remote Mardale was considered one of England’s most beautiful valleys. Originally there were two smaller lakes – High and Low Water – which were engulfed along with the village of Mardale Green by the rising waters after the dam was constructed at the end of the valley. This summer the long dry spell led to the waters falling and remains of buildings in the drowned village including the Dun Bull Inn, the Public School, Riggindale Farm became visible, attracting curious visitors.

This was the view to the east from the summit

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and over towards High Street

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To the south west I could see Raise, my next objective

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The cloud I’d seen earlier during my walk over to the west had finally blown over and the sky was now overcast and grey.

It was a relatively easy walk over good ground to the summit of Raise,

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where I stopped for a while to grab a bite to eat, taking in the views over towards Martindale and Ullswater.

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I set off to head along the ridge towards Rampsgill Head and on to High Street. Doing so I would be treading in the footsteps of the Romans who’d built a road, High Street, over the fells between their forts at Penrith and Ambleside, which is how the fell known as High Street got it’s name.

The summit of Raise is covered with loose rocks and as I was starting off towards Rampsgill Head I lost my footing. I couldn’t regain my balance and fell over, somehow cracking my mouth on a rock. As I regained my feet I realised that as well as a few minor cuts and scrapes on my hands and shin, a cut just below my mouth was bleeding quite heavily. I managed to staunch the bleeding with a tissue but decided my little accident wasn’t serious enough to warrant abandoning my trek (it was a long way back to Hartsop in any case) so I carried on, continuing to soak up the blood from the cut below my mouth with a series of tissues until it eventually eased. Anyone who saw me must have thought I’d been in a scrap! I guess I was lucky as a fall up on the fells can be much more serious.

Despite my little incident, I was still able to enjoy the views down Martindale from Rampsgill Head

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Traversing the ridge towards High Street and looking down Riggendale towards Haweswater

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and view over Rough Crag towards Harter Fell and Branstree

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Looking back down to Hayeswater from the route of the Roman road.

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High Street is a long, broad ridge without a clear summit, but OI made my way to the trig point at the highest point of the fell

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Heading back, I decided to more or less retrace my route down to Hartsop, but followed the wall along the top of of High Street rather than taking the route of the Roman road. Walking along the ridge over the Straits of Riggendale I diverted slightly for the modest climb to the summit of the Knott. This was the view back over to High Street.

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It was downhill all the way now back down to Hayeswater Gill and the car park in Hartsop

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