Where Romans marched

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Cumbria must have been one of the most wild and remote areas of the Roman Empire. Nevertheless they built forts at Brougham (Brocavum) near Penrith and at Ambleside (Galava), no doubt to keep restless natives under control. And being Romans there had to be road to connect them – High Street. Rather than route it along the bottom of the valleys, which at that time would have been covered with thick woodland and were likely to have been boggy underfoot, and where they would have been susceptible to ambushes, they built it over the top of the fells. The high point of the road was on the gentle slopes of a fell with a flat summit plateau, now known as “High Street”. At 2,718 ft, its summit is the highest point in the far eastern part of the Lake District National Park, and that was our destination last Sunday.

We drove up to the small hamlet of Hartsop and managed to find a space in the car park at the far end of the settlement. We’d left home in t-shirts but it was chilly when we arrived mid morning and there was low cloud on the fells.

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We set off following the path along the valley heading towards Hayeswater. Thick cloud was hanging in the valley ahead.

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We passed this interesting old building, covered with vegetation and almost dissolving into the landscape

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After half an hour or so we reached the glacial lake of Hayeswater. The tops of the fells still covered with cloud.

 

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We took the hillside on the path heading up towards “The Knott”, heading into the mist

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Looking back we began to wonder whether we’d made the wrong decision of where to go walking, with sun shining on the fells to the west.

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Looking back Helvelyn and Blencathra were free of cloud and the former was lit up with sunshine.

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We carried on heading up into the mist. We passed the Knott and soon High Street was visible (with cloud covering the summit)

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Starting our climb up the slope there were good views of the dramatic crags on the path towards Kidsey Pike

 

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Looking east along Riggindale towards Haweswater

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Zooming in on Haweswater

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Looking towards Riggindale Crag

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Walking along the ridge, looking north west we had a good view of Hayeswater – the cloud was beginning to clear.

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Not long after we reached the trig point of the top of the fell.

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There’s no distinct summit as it’s a broad, flat fell. At one time locals from the surrounding valleys used to meet up here on 12 July to return stray sheep to their owners and held a country fair with sports including wrestling and horse racing. In fact the summit area is still known as “Racecourse Hill”.

Cloud was still hugging the fells to the south and east, but there was a good view of the mountains to the west and north

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After taking a break for some food we set off south along the ridge – looking backwards over Hayeswater, Gray Crag and the Knott

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Our next destination, Thornthwaite Crag with it’s beacon, visible through the mist.

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The summit is marked by Thornthwaite Beacon, an impressive cairn,14 feet high.

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Looking back towards High Street.

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A clearer view over to the west with the Coniston Fells, Crinkle Crags and The Langdale Pikes clearly visible

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as well as the Fairfield Horsehoe, the Helvelyn range and Blencathra.

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Unfortunately, the summits to the south and east were covered with cloud.

We started our descent towards Threshthwaite Mouth. Two fell runners bounded past us.

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Our route took us down a very steep scree slope. Quite hairy at times with a steep drop to the left in places and with our feet slipping underneath us – we were thankful of our walking poles which provided some stability during the descent.

This is a shot looking back up the slope

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The compensation were great views down towards a sunny Ullswater and Patterdale

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and in the other direction, as the cloud had cleared, down towards Windermere with the summits of Ill Bell and Yoke (which we’d climbed back in March during our break in Kentmere) now clearly visible.

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We finally reached the bottom of the path. Here’s view looking backwards – the path was a lot steeper than it looks in the photo!

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Looking down the next part of our route, Pasture Bottom, with Ullswater in the distance.

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It was another steep descent, but on a much better path.

Looking backwards from the bottom of the descent

 

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The path followed the beck downstream back towards Hartsop. There were some interesting glacial features – with a collection of drumlins along our route

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Two thirds along the valley the path levelled out

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Looking back along the valley

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We passed some old Myer’s Head lead mine buildings. The stone walls once supported a wooden ‘launder’ or chute,  which carried water to drive a large water wheel located in the pit in the foreground of the photo.

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Being interested in industrial history and archaeology I found some information on the mine here and here.

Not far to go now

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back in the car park there was a much clearer view along the valley than when we set out!

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