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.


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!).


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.


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.

Old mine workings
Looking back down the valley

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!)


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.

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.

Another monument to the National Trust – a bench this time
There’s the launch – not many passengers today
I wandered lonely as a cloud …… (wrong lake, mind)

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.

Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell and High Seat

The May Day Bank Holiday Monday was the first day of my short break in Borrowdale. I wanted to make the most of my time off so I packed over the weekend and so was able to set off reasonably early up the M6 towards the Lakes. The traffic was lighter than I expected for a Bank Holiday – probably a combination of the early start and a less than promising weather forecast.

I’d planned a walk over on the eastern side of Derwent Water which would take in some moderate sized fells and a couple of well known “beauty spots”. After a fairly easy drive, I parked up late morning in the National Trust car park at Great Wood, donned my walking gear and then set off up the path through the woods.


Lots of bluebells to be seen


My first destination was somewhere I’d visited a few times, including last August – Walla Crag. The path climbed up through the woods, eventually reaching a path where we turned right towards Castlerigg farm. Views opened up over Derwent Water, the fells to the west of the lake, and, to the north, Skiddaw and Blencathra.


After the farm there was a shortish, steep climb up the fell before I reached the top of Walla Crag, where I stopped for a bite to eat and to take in the views. They were pretty good even though it was something of a grey day.

Looking over Derwent Water with Bassenthwaite Lake in the distance

Time to get moving again. During previous walks up here I’d turned off down one of the routes back down to the lake but this time I took the path that would lead me over to Bleaberry Fell, a relatively modest fell at 1,936 feet high – not quite a mountain if you take the definition as 2,000 feet. It looked enticingly close, but looks can be deceiving!

Looking towards Bleaberry fell

Part of the way to the summit the rain that had been promised arrived. But it didn’t last long and had moved on after less than 20 minutes. I was still glad I was wearing my waterproof coat, mind, and needed to use the waterproof cover for my rucksack.

Looking over to the top of Borrowdale. and the high fells, including Scafell Pike and Great Gable

Another relatively short, steep climb and I was on the summit. Time for a coffee from my flask while I looked out over the fells. Despite the cloud and grey skies, visibility wasn’t too bad and I see over to Helvellyn in the east and the high mountains at the top end of Borrowdale.

I wasn’t the on;y one on the summit of Bleaberry Fell
Looking across to the fells to the west of Derwent Water
Looking over to Blencathra
It’s raining over Thirlmere. The rain obscuring the view of Helvelyn. But no rain on Bleaberry Fell. That’s the Lake District for you. Rain in one valley and none in the next

I might have turned around and retraced my steps back down the hill, but I decided to carry on to the next summit, High Seat, which was about a mile away. Another fell I’d never climbed. It’s a few feet higher than Bleaberry Fell, and at 1,995 feet is again just short of a mountain

The modest looking bump in the mid-ground is High Seat

It looks like a relatively easy walk over to High Seat. There isn’t much loss in altitude and the terrain is fairly flat. But looks can be deceiving. The ground is notoriously boggy and Wainwright reckons that  “this is a walk to wish on one’s worst enemy“.

I soon hit boggy ground. Fortunately, we’d had a few relatively dry weeks so it wasn’t as bad as it might have been and I managed to get across the bogs fairly unscathed. It must be horrendous in winter or after a prolonged wet spell.

I made my way to the summit cairn and once again took in the views.


The trig point was just a few feet away

Another walker standing on the rocky outcrop to the east of the summit with Helvellyn in the background

Time to start making my way back down. The path which would take me to Ashness Bridge was clearly visible. It looked a much better surface than the one across from Bleaberry Fell


It was, but there were several boggy stretches to cross as I made my way back towards Derwent Water


There were a few other people about, but it was relatively quiet


Getting closer to the end of the descent now


I reached the popular beauty spot at Ashness Bridge. It’s graced many a chocolate box and postcard!


I stopped for a brief rest and removed my waterproof coat. It had turned sunny and down off the fell it was feeling warm. Then I set off down the path through the woods towards the car park, about another mile away.


Reaching the car park, I hadn’t quite finished. I decided to walk the short distance over to Calf Cross Bay on Derwent Water.


The Hundred Year Stones, a monument created by Peter Randall-Page to mark the centenary of the National Trust, are often at least partially submerged by the water, but not today. The level of the Lake must have been relatively low


After a short time enjoying the tranquil atmosphere, I walked back to the car and then drove allong Borrowdale to Seatooler to check in at my B and B.

Walla Crag and Ashness Bridge

Thursday was the last day of our holiday and we decided that although rain showers were forecast we’d get out for a walk. We managed to persuade our son to come out with us so we decided on a route that wouldn’t be too challenging.

We drove over to the National Trust Car Park at Great Wood on the east side of the lake and set off up through the woods, heading for Walla Crag.


The path climbed up through the woods, eventually reaching a path where we turned right towards Castlerigg farm. Views opened up of Derwent Water and the fells to the west of the lake


and to Skidaw


and Blencathra


Passing the farm we had a short sharp climb up the fell, but with great views


It’s a relatively short climb up to the top of the crag, although it is classified as a Wainwright as the grumpy author of the classic guidebooks to the Lakeland fells gives it it’s own entry due to it’s popularity. It’s certainly a great viewpoint.


The dark clouds threatening rain made it very atmospheric.



Bleaberry Fell, only a mile away, looked inviting


but son wasn’t so keen on extending the walk, so we continued on our pre-planned route taking the path descending gradually down the hill towards Ashness Bridge.



Looking back over Derwent Water


It didn’t take us too long to reach Ashness Bridge, a traditional stone-built bridge on the single-track road to Watendlath. It’s a very popular tourist spot as it’s easily accessible and is allegedly the most photographed packhorse bridge in the Lake District, so I had to stop to take a few snaps.





Rather than take the path through the woods from Ashness Bridge back to Great Wood car park we decided to follow the road down to the lake and walk along the shore to Calfclose Bay to have another look at the Millennium stones monument.
I’m not sure that this was a great idea because for a good stretch of the way back the path we’d walked along on Saturday was flooded as the Lake level had risen due to the on and off rain since Sunday.

Reaching the sculpture, this is what greeted us



So far, despite rain clearly visible falling over the fells, especially up Borrowdale and in Newlands Valley across Derwent Water, we’d avoided the showers. But now it started to rain – very heavily. It was only a short walk back to the car, but it was time to get the waterproofs out of the rucksack!

Reaching the car we changed out of our boots and chucked the wet coats into the boot of the car and then drove back to Portinscale. Another good walk.


The weather forecast for the Sunday of our holiday in the Lakes was for heavy rain all day. It didn’t quite turn out like that. We had a lazy morning and a late cooked breakfast (a holiday treat) but in the afternoon I had itchy feet. The skies were grey but it wasn’t raining, so some of us decided to go out for a short walk to have a look at the Lingholm Estate.


After the Lake District had become a popular holiday destination, particularly after the arrival of the railways made travel there much easier, many wealthy Victorian businessmen (many from Northern England) had holiday homes built on, or close to, the shores of the various lakes. Lingholm, on the north west shores of Derwent Water is one of these. It’s a large house built in 1873 and designed by the prominent Victorian Architect Alfred Waterhouse (who designed many notable buildings including Liverpool University Victoria Building, Manchester Town Hall, Strangeways Prison, the Natural History Museum in London and Wigan Library)for Lt Col. James Fenton Greenall of the brewing family. Financial problems meant that he had to sell it and it in 1900 it ended up owned by the family of George Kemp, 1st Baron Rochdale.


Beatrix Potter spent her summer holidays at Lingholm between 1885 and 1907, and she wrote some of her best-known stories while she was staying here.


Today the house has been converted to holiday accommodation with several apartments to rent, but there’s also a garden and café that’s open to the public. It wasn’t possible to get round to have a proper look at the house so I was only able to get some snaps from the back.


The octagonal garden is only a few years old, but sits on the same spot as the old Lingholm kitchen gardens which Beatrix Potter credited as her original inspiration for Mr McGregor’s garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.


The garden contains a mix of vegetables for the kitchen and ornamental plants




There’s a path down to the lake where there’s a jetty where it’s normally possible to catch the launch over to Keswick and other locations around the Lake. It’s closed at the moment due to the construction of a new boathouse, but it was still possible to access the lake shore.



The estate also own a herd of alpacas and you can hire one out to take for a walk if you feel so inclined!


After a coffee and an ice cream we walked back towards Portinscale. I decided to have a wander through the meadow to the lake side where I stopped for a while to watch competitors participating in the second day of the swim-run coming ashore.


There was only a relatively short run for them to the finish line.

I had a chat with one of the race officials and he told me that the race had started in Buttermere and they’d swum in the lake there, run over the pass, along Derwent Water before another swim. Crazy!


A walk round Derwent Water


Saturday, the first full day of our holiday in the Lake District, we set out on a sunny morning to walk around Derwent Water.  A full circuit of the Lake was about 9 miles in total, but being largely flat, it was a relatively easy walk.

After a short walk along the road from our accommodation and through woodland past the jetty at Nichol End and the Lingholm Estate, we emerged in a meadow with views ahead of Cat Bells


and, over to the west, Causey Pike


Passing the Hawes End we started to follow the path along the waterside.






At Brandlehow we passed the “Bear in the Window”


surrounded by postcards and letters  sent by walkers (children and adults) who, like us, stumbled on him as they passed


Approaching the top of the lake, there were views across to the neck of Borrowdale. Cloud was gathering in the distance


During the walk along the west shore we kept being passed by pairs of runners participating in a Breca swim-run


Reaching the head of the lake, there were great views over to Skiddaw


We crossed the bridge over the River Derwent


and stopped for a while we had a bite to eat and admire the view


We now continued along the east shore. Initially walking along a short stretch of road by the Lodore Hotel and then a path through the woods before joining the path along the shore of the lake.



Raven Crag looming over the lake


One of the launches that carry passengers around the lake stopping off at a number of jetties.



Looking over the lake to the hills and mountains to the west



We reached Calfclose Bay where there’s a monument, the MIllenium Stones by Peter Randall-Page, marking the centenary of the National Trust which owns much of the land around the Lake



We carried on along the lake towards Keswick


Reaching the jetty near the “Theatre by the Lake”


We carried on into the town, stopping off for some refreshment in the Wainwright pub before setting back to our apartment in Portiscale.

Castlerigg, Great Wood and Derwent Water


Leaving Castlerigg stone circle we took the narrow metalled road heading south towards Castlerigg farm. Conditions were pretty treacherous underfoot through the fields but we persevered yomping though the gloop until we came to farm where we joined the path alongside Brockle Beck in the direction towards Keswick.

Views started to open up down to Derwent Water and Cat Bells on the western shore


We took a left turn and set off along the path which would take us through Great Wood and the lake.




Just after the National Trust Car Park we crossed over the Borrowdale Road and followed the path along the lake shore back to Keswick. – taking care to avoid the dangerous wildlife!





The rain held off until we reached the jetty near the Theatre by the Lake.  A little window browsing in the shops in Keswick and then we headed back up the hill to our B and B and a nice cup of tea!

A pleasant but not very demanding walk and a good start to the holiday!

Catbells, Maiden Moor and Blea Cragg


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.



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


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


and, to the west, down Newlands Valley


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


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.



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

Looking back along the path:


The views were exceptional, even on a grey day



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


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



Looking back to Catbells


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



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.




Unfortunately mist was rolling in


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


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



Walla Crag

We arrived in Keswick a little before midday. As we had tickets for the theatre and had a table booked at Morrell’s restaurant for a pre-theatre meal and needed to check into our B and B   before then, we decided to start our break with a modest walk up Walla Crag.

We set out from the car park by Derwent Water, cutting through town and then down Springs Road toward the woods and the path towards the fells.


Climbing up the fell, views of the surrounding countryside opened up.

Looking back towards Keswick with Skiddaw towering over the town


On reaching the summit there were great views over the lake towards Cat Bells and the mountains on the far side of Newlands Valley


The Summit of Bleaberry Fell, about a mile away, looked tempting


but time was limited so we made our way down towards the lake shore


descending via the very steep path down Cat Gill



Reaching the lake shore there were great views over to Cat Bells and down Borrowdale to the high fells

We followed the footpath along the lake back towards  Keswick.

We cam across this sculpture on the lake shore in Calfclose bay. The Centenay Stone is a work by Peter Randall-Page, created from a large boulder of local Borrowdale volcanic rock which was split and carved by the artist to commemorate the National Trust’s centenary in 1995.




We continued back down the shore to the car park, stopping to look back down the lake.DSC07255

A long weekend in Keswick

Last weekend we decided to treat ourselves to a short break in the Lake District. We booked ourselves into a fancy B and B in Keswick, driving up on Saturday and staying for a couple of nights.

Keswick is a market town and tourist centre (ever since Georgian times) in the North Lake District, on Derwent Water


Surrounded by dramatic scenery

It’s always a bit of a gamble booking a beak in the Lakes where most of the enjoyment is spending time outdoors, but we were lucky with the weather for the first two days. It was overcast and cloudy (so not great for taking photos with the light flat and grey)


but it didn’t rain and the sun broke through a few times. The autumn colours were breaking out


We managed a couple of walks, half a day on Saturday and a long day out on Sunday.

It rained on Monday, but we’d planned on mooching round Keswick and visiting the Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, and neither were dependant on good weather.


We also managed to have a rather nice meal out and a visit to the theatre (the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick). So all in all a very good break.