Fairfield Via Alcock Tarn

Keeping my eye on the weather forecast, a Tuesday in early June looked promising so I decided to get out for a walk. I had an idea for a circular route based on the train, but a cancellation by the ever dependable (not!) Northern Rail put the end to that option. So, I reverted to driving up to the Lakes and decided to park up in Grasmere and see where I ended up. It was bright and sunny when I arrived so I booted up and headed towards the fells to the east of the village. I decided to walk up to the Fairfield ridge via Alcock Tarn. I’d only been up to this small man made tarn up on the hillside once before so I thought it was time to give it another go. My first walk up there, just before the first lockdown, was up the path to the north of the tarn, so this time I thought I’d take the alternative southern route that passed Dove Cottage before ascending through woods on the fell side.

Dove Cottage

It was a steep climb and views over the valley below over to the high fells in the west soon opened up.

Part way up the hill I passed through the gate – the tarn, and much of the surrounding fell, was bought by the National Trust in the 1940s.

I carried on up the hill, occasionally stopping to look back at the view, and eventually reached my first objective where I stopped for a break and a bite to eat. The tarn, which sits on a shelf on the side of Heron Crag, is about 1000 feet above Grasmere and was originally a small natural pool known as Butter Crags Tarn. It was purchased during the 19th century by a Mr Alcock who lived in Hollins, a grand house on the edge of the village the valley below (it’s now used as the Regional HQ for the National Trust), who enlarged it with a dam and stocked it with trout.

The edge of the tarn was swaring with tadpoles. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many!

After a short break it was time to set off up the fell side along a clear path up towards Nab scar that isn’t shown on the OS map.

Looking back down on the tarn

The view back down to Grasmere and over to the Coniston Fells

I reached the ridge at the top of Nab Scar. Looking south I had a good view over Windermere

but my route was in the opposite direction, over to Heron Pike then Great Rigg and the summit of Fairfield. There were a few other walkers about, many of them tackling the Fairfield Horseshoe, but that wasn’t my intention.

After tackling the first two peaks I arrived on the stony summit of Fairfield

Looking over to Coffa Pike and St Sunday Crag

and over to Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn

The view over to the Western Fells

and over to Windermere

I stopped for a while chatting to another solo walker who was tackling the horseshoe and then retraced my tracks back to Great Rigg

I’d decided to descend via Stone Arthur so reaching Great Rigg I left the main ridge and took the path down the slope towards the rocky outcrops that look down on Grasmere village.

Looking to my right as I descended
Stone Arthur ahead

I passed a small group of walkers and then reached my objective where I stopped to enjoy the views down to the valley and over to the western fells.

I made my way down the path back to the village. Having been up this way a couple of times previously I knew it was a steep path and it was tough on the old knees as I descended, so I was glad to get down to level ground. I had a quick mooch round the village buying myself a cold drink from the Co-op which I drank siting on a bench on the village green. It was then time to return to the car and set off back home. The joys of the M6 to come!

Fairfield Ridge

Walking opportunities during mid February have been limited due to visits from Dudley, Eunice and Franklin, but the week before the storms I managed to take a day off work and drove up to Grasmere to head off up the fells.

For once I managed to bag a free space on the outskirts of the village – mid week in February meant there weren’t as many people out and about. I booted up and set off. I’d decided to tackle Fairfield taking the route up to the ridge via Stone Arthur. It’s a steep climb up to the rocky prominence, which is really an outlier of Great Rig, one of the peaks along the western ridge of the Fairfield Horseshoe.

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Good views looking back down towards Grasmere
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The RAF were out in force that morning. Part way up two Typhoons zoomed allong the valley. They were followed by a stream of more aircraft at intervals as I climbed, disturbing the peace and quiet for a couple of hours.

The wind picked up as I climbed – it was blowing a hooley when I reached Stone Arthur.

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I stopped for a short while, sheltering from the wind behind the rocks, for a brew and a bite to eat before continuing the climb up towards Great Rig

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Cracking views back over the valley
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and over Grisedale to Dollywagon Pike and Helvellyn
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The summit of Great Rigg ahead

Reaching the ridge and the summit of great Rigg I was battered by the wind but stopped to chat with some other walkers and to take in the views

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Looking over to Fairfield
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Down the ridge to Windermere
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Looking west over Grasmere toward the Coniston Fells, with Coniston Water visible in the distance
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Looking north to Seat Sandal, Grisedale Tarn and Dollywagon Pike with Helvellyn just about visible

Onwards now towards Fairfield

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It was cold and windy at the summit

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and I stopped at the small shelter to warm myself up with a coffee from my flask. Last time I was up here, the summit was covered with cloud, but today there were good views all round.

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Looking north towards the Helvellyn ridge with Skiddaw and Blencathra visible in the distance
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Cofa Pike and Saint Sunday Crag above Grisedale
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Looking across to the eastern fells

I now had to decide on what route to take for the return leg of my journey. One option was to take the steep path down from Fairfield to Grisedale Tarn. I decided against this, choosing to stay high on the ridge despite the wind and head back over Great Rigg to Heron Pike.

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Cloud was drifting over but every so often the sun broke through leading to some dramatic lighting effects

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Looking back towards Fairfield
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Dramatic light over the Coniston fells
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Herdies on the hillside
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Looking back along the Horseshoe from Heron Pike
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The east side of the horseshoe

To descend from the ridge back to Grisedale I took the VERY steep path down from Heron Pike. I managed to keep upright for most of the way down – thank goodness for walking poles – only landing on my backside once!

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Looking across to the north as I descended

I eventually reached the path to Alcock Tarn and then turned right for a slightly easier route back down to the valley.

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Looking over Grasmere
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Looking over to Stone Arthur – I could see the route I’d taken during the morning
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Back down at the bottom of the fell now. I crossed the bridge and then took the path heading down into Grasmere

I wandered into the village and had a brief mooch before returning to my car and setting off back home. Another good day in the fells .

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.