A Sunday Stroll

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Well, I’m not sure it would classify as a stroll, but last Sunday, to make the most of the good weather we’ve been having (which, surely, can’t last much longer) I decided to head up to the Lake District and tackle Skiddaw, England’s 4th highest mountain.

I set off early and drove up the M6 to Penrith and then across to Keswick (takes about an hour and 45 minutes) where I parked up on the edge of town, close to the path towards Skiddaw. I initially followed the route that skirted  the smaller hill, Latrigg, which we’d climbed last March. This is the well trodden “tourist route”, which some bloggers are quite sniffy about. But I’m not that bothered about their opinions, it was the most convenient way up. There were certainly plenty of other people taking the route.

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Skiddaw is an attractive mountain when viewed from Keswick. Walking up, certainly the first half, is a bit of a steep slog with the views behind you rather than ahead. But looking back over  to Keswick, Derwent Water and nearby hills gave an excuse for a bit of a break.

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Unfortunately, some weather was passing through, with cloud and rain over Helvellyn, Borrowdale and the Newlands valley, and visibility wasn’t that great. 

When the climb levels out there’s a summit ahead. But it’s not the final destination. Rather a subsidiary peak, Skiddaw Little Man, something of a “false summit”. Although there’s a path to the main summit that avoids them, in a moment of madness I decided to “bag” it.

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It was a very stiff, steep climb to the top, but didn’t take so long and there were good views from the top.

 

A steep descent then it was time to climb again, this time to the main summit plateau.

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It didn’t take too long to climb the final stretch up to the top – a flat plateau with some cairns, a windbreak shelter and a trig point.

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I stopped a while to take in the hazy views down to Bassenthwaite

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and over to Blencathra

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After a short rest I set on back down the mountain, by-passing the Little Man.  Now I was facing the views so in many ways the descent, was more pleasurable.

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Getting close to the bottom of the mountain another moment of madness overtook me, and I decided to extend the walk a little by climbing to the summit of Latrigg to take in the views as the haze was beginning to clear.

Looking over Keswick and Derwent Water

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over to the Newlands Valley, Causey Pike and Grisedale

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and back to Skiddaw

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After a short while I made my way back down to where I’d parked the car. All in all it had been a 9 1/2 mile walk with 3925 feet of ascent. But I hadn’t quite done. The sun was shining and I felt in need of some caffeine, so I dumped my rucksack and walking poles in my boot and walked down into Keswick. There’s a nice little coffee shop I know in the main street (Java)!

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The Fairfield Horseshoe

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The weather has been cracking for most of May so I’ve been trying to take advantage of it as much as possible and get up on the moors and fells. Travelling over a Bank Holiday weekend can be a bit of a trauma, but I decided I’d extend the recent long weekend by a day and drive back up to the Lakes. I set off early (07:15) and as traffic was lighter than usual due to the school holidays I was parking up in Ambleside before 9 o’clock. In a moment of madness I’d decided to tackle one of the classic Lake District walks – the Fairfield horseshoe. Leaving from and returning to Ambleside it’s an 11 mile walk that takes in a total of 8 peaks.

It was an easy start. A short stretch along the busy Amblside – Grasmere – Keswick road before turning off along a gentle path towards Rydal.

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Passing Rydal Hall, where I popped into the garden to get a view of the Georgian mansion house

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and then Wordsworth’s former home at Rydal Mount.

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Then the climb began up to the first of the 8 peaks, Nab Scar. A hard start up a long, very steep (seemed almost vertical!) hill. BUt as I climbed great views staryed to open up, looking back to Windermere

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and west to Loughrigg

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Rydal Water, and the Coniston Fells

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Grasmere, the Langdales and even the Scafells

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It was hard work on what was turning into a hot day and I was beginning to doubt my sanity, but eventually I reached the top of the climb and started to head towards the next peak, Heron Pike. That meant some more climbing, but a lot easier than the initial ascent.

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As I started the climb up to the next peak, Great Rig, the wind was picking up and it was becoming cooler. A welcome breeze even if it meant I had to hang on to my hat to stop it blowing away down to Grasmere!

Looking back to Heron Pike from the windy summit of Great Rig, where I stopped for a bit to eat,

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and looking on to the next summit, the mid point and highest point on the walk – Fairfield at 2864 feet.

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It’s more exposed and some cloud was blowing in from the east on the strong wind. I kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t be too misty on the top.

After some more climbing I reached the top of Fairfield. It’s a broad flat plateau littered with rocks without an obvious summit.  The cloud was blowing in and out and it was windy and much colder than when I started in Ambleside.

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Halfway round, I stopped for a rest and a bite to eat, sheltering behind a cairn where I chatted with a couple of other walkers. Then it was time to set off to complete the second half of the circuit.

There’s a number of paths from the top of Fairfield leading to different directions. But the cloud dispersed and i had no problem finding the right one that lead towards Hart Crag.  As I followed the path I got a good view  along the valley towards Windermere and both of the ridges – the one I’d just walked and the one I was to follow back to Ambleside.

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Heading towards Hart Crag

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After reaching the summit there was a steep descent before the next climb up to Dove Crag

Now views opened up towards High Street and the Kentmere Horseshoe with the distinctive shape of Ill Bell standing out on the horizon

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Reaching the top of Dove Crag I stopped for a short while, sheltering from the easterly wind behind the summit cairn where I chatted with a couple from North Wales I’d been following round the route.

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Another steep descent and there were two more peaks – High Pike and Low Pike to traverse. There was a drystone wall all along the top which the route followed.

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The wall walks the fell –
Grey millipede on slow
Stone hooves;
Its slack back hollowed
At gulleys and grooves,
Or shouldering over
Old boulders
Too big to be rolled away.
Fallen fragments
Of the high crags
Crawl in the walk of the wall . . .

(extract from Wall by Norman Nicholson)

Apparently, the official right of way is on the right of the wall but the path seemed to be better on the left hand side. As we’d had good weather with little rain for the past few weeks, the going was good over the peaty ground, but it was clear that for much of the year sections of the walk would something of a quagmire.

Looking across Scandale to Red Screes

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and back to Scandale Head

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Looking down towards Ambleside and Windermere

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back to High Pike from Low Pike

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It was all downhill now into Scandale.

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At the bottom of the valley, with not much further back to Ambleside, looking over to my right I could see the fells I’d climbed that morning at the beginning of my walk

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Another half an hour and I was back in Ambleside

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Time for some caffeine!

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It had been a long but very rewarding walk in generally good conditions. 11 miles and just short of 4,000 feet of ascent. I was tired, but glad to have completed it and be able to tick another item off my bucket list!

Wythburn Church

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My recent walk up Helvellyn started and finished in the car park next to Wythburn church.

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It’s a small, but attractive building with white rendered walls and a green Lakeland slate roof.  Originally constructed in 1554 on the site of an earlier chapel, it was rebuilt  in 1640, and again in 1740 with some additions in the 19th Century. It’s a Grade II listed building

The church used to serve a small, isolated, rural community but the local population was severely reduced once Thirlmere was turned into a reservoir to provide water for Manchester at the very end of the 19th Century. Despite this it is still in use with services held during the summer months.

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After I had finished my walk I went to have a look around the outside of the church and noticed that it was open. So I had to go inside to have a peek inside.

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It was surprisingly light inside and clearly well looked after.

The church was well known to the Lakes poets. Hartley Coleridge (the son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge) called the church a ‘humble house of prayer’, while William Wordsworth saw it as a ‘modest house of prayer.’

Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike and Dollywagon Pike

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What a change May has been. After an awful start to the year the weather has been much better during this month so last Sunday (20th) I set off early and drove back up to the Lakes. I’d decided I’d climb Helvellyn, England’s third highest peak.  I’d decided to take the less adventurous route (I was going to type “easier” but it was anything but) up from the Thirlmere side rather than tackle Striding and Swirral Edges. I’ll save that for another day.

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Saturday had been a glorious, sunny day. Unfortunately Sunday wasn’t quite so good. The morning started rather grey and visibility wasn’t great. And it was windy on the top.

I parked up in the small car park by Wythburn church

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and donned my boots and started the steep climb up through the forest. Although it was still early, it was quite warm and I was only wearing a t-shirt and a light fleece I was soon unzipping the latter. I had a windproof / waterproof jacket and gloves in my rucksack, though. I had over two and a half feet to climb and the temperature was certain to drop. I needed my jacket by the time I reached the top.

I gained height quickly and looking back I soon got a good view of Thirlmere with Skiddaw on the horizon to the north

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I carried on climbing, taking a rest at Comb Crags to grab a bite to eat as my blood sugar had dropped. This was the view looking back

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The path skirted the flanks of Nethermost Pike before ascending up the ridge to the summit of Helvellyn

Reaching the hawse before the final ascent I could see the south face of Striding Edge

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A short climb and I had reached the summit. Helvellyn is a broad plateau so it’s not so easy to decide exactly where the summit is! But I grabbed a bite to eat in the shelter, snapped a few photos and then walked along  the plateau, taking in the views.

Red Tarn and Striding Edge. There’s still some snow in a sheltered spot the sun doesn’t reach.

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Swirral Edge and Catseye Cam with Ullswater  in the distance

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Gough’s monument

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It was windy on the top so I didn’t stay too long. Retracing my steps for a while before branching off up towards the top of Nethermost Pike

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Looking back towards Helvellyn

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Nethermost Pike is another flat topped mountain. There were great views over to the west where I cold make out the silhouettes of the  Coniston Fells, the Langdales, Bow Fell the Scafells and Great Gable. Pity visibility wasn’t better

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My route would take me over Nethermost Pike, High Crag and on to Dollywagon Pike

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Looking down to Grisedale

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Looking back at High Crag

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Another climb took me to the summit of Dollywagon Pike. Here’s a few views from the top

Down Grisedale towards Ullswater

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towards Fairfield

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Now it was time to start my descent, initially down the south side of Dollywagon Pike down to Grisedale Tarn

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A steep descent down the path

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Reaching the tarn I followed the path and skirted the south shore, resisting the temptation to climb Seat Sandal

Looking over the tarn back to Dollywagon Pike

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and over to Fairfield

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Now for the worst part of the walk, the descent down the steep path beside Raise Beck.

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I always find descents harder work as it’s hard on my knees. But I persevered and eventually reached the main Grasmere to Keswick road.

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It was just over a mile back to the car park, but fortunately the route didn’t entail walking on the tarmac as there was a path that cut across the fields

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and then through the forest

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A view over Thirlmere

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A steep descent down through the forest and I was back at the car park

A walk along Coniston Water

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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.

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Coniston Round

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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.

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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

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

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

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I started to get a good view of Swirl How

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I eventually reached the summit.

Looking over towards the Scafells

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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

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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

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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

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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.

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

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Dow Crag

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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).

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

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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.

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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

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and the Old Man.

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Looking down to Goats Water

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

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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.

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As I descended good views down to Coniston Water opened up

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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.

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

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

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where I stopped for a brew at the Bluebird Cafe.

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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.