Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell


After the return of the “beast from the east” a couple of weekend’s ago we had to abandon our plans to spend a couple of days up by Ullswater. Last Saturday, though the weather looked much more promising so we decided to chance a day trip up to the lake for our first proper walk of the year. It turned out to be a good decision.

It’s about an an hour and a half’s drive up to Ullswater and although we left a little later than planned we arrived around midday and managed to park up in the National Trust carpark close to Aira Force. A post by Mark of Beating the Bounds had give me the idea of a walk to have a look at the water fall which was sure to be looking good after all the rain and snow the previous weekend. A popular walking route goes up past the waterfalls then over and around Gowbarrow fell. Nothing too ambitious given that our walking legs were rather rusty!


Setting off from the car park we followed the course of the river and soon came to Aira Force, the first of a series of waterfalls. As expected it was quite a sight, which the photographs cannot give justice to.


A little further up the river – High Force



After about a kilometre walking along the river, we turned right following the path that would take us up on to the fell.


Great views across to the lake and the high mountains soon opened up behind us.


It was a relatively modest climb to the summit at Airy Crag.


This is the view over to Blencathra and Skiddaw


and over towards Ullswater with the Pennines in the distance, still capped with snow.


After a short break to admire the view, we resumed the walk which would take us west and then south parallel to the lake but high up on the side of the fell.



Part way round we got “picked up” by this lady


who seemed unwilling to return to her owner.

We reached the viewpoint at Yew Crag


More good views



There’s the steamer sailing towards Glenridding


Coming towards the end of the walk, as we started to descend, we passed Lyulph’s Tower. It looked like one of the fortified farmhouses which are common in this area close to the Scottish border. However, although there used to be a Pele Tower on the site at one time the current building was constructed in the 1780s by Charles Howard, the 11th Duke of Norfolk, as a hunting lodge.


Returning to the car park, we decided it was too nice to head straight back home so we drove the short distance to Glennridding to take an easy stroll along the Lake by the steamer jetty


The view to the head of the lake


Driving back along the lake, the evening light was fantastic so I pulled up to take a few snaps



ON a fine day, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than the Lake District.


Kendal Castle


After our visit to Abbot Hall to see the Julian Cooper exhibition we had a wander round the town centre and then, as it had turned into a pleasant afternoon, we decided to walk up to Kendal Castle. The Castle was built in the early 12th Century on a glacial hill left behind from the last ice age, to the east of the town. It was more of a fortified manor house  for the local barons, than a military stronghold, but it would have dominated the town, looking over it from it’s prominent high position. And it would have been a potent symbol of their wealth and power.

Crossing the River Kent near to Abbot Hall, it’s a short walk to Castle Hill.


It’s then a short, if steep, climb up to the castle.


I didn’t have my camera with me, but the good light meant I was able to get some decent shots using my phone.





Visibility was good so there were great views over to Red Screes and the Kentmere fells.


We could clearly see Yoke and Ill Bell that we’d climber only a few weeks before.



We had a quick look round the interior of the ruined castle

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Julian Cooper at Abbot Hall

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On Easter Saturday we drove up to Abbot Hall to take a look at their latest exhibition – a mini-retrospective of the work of a Cumbrian artist, Julian Cooper.

The paintings on display could be divided into four periods

His earliest works, shown on the landing at the top of the main staircase are quite abstract, although clearly based on vegetation and geological formations. The paintings from the second period, displayed in the first room, were figurative. A number of them based on Malcolm Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano and feature characters from the novel. But dominating the background are mountains, which later became the primary focus of his work.

The work then evolves again into a unique form of representation that is frequently near-abstract in its emphasis on the texture, shadow and irregular surfaces of rock and ice.  these mature period works

These mature period works were my favourites.

The second room was dominated by two large paintings of the Tibetan holy mountain, Mount Kailash which he visited in early spring 2006. One painting shows it’s north face, the other, the south.

A unique mountain, Kailash is worshipped by Hindus, Jain and Buddhists alike as the home of their Gods yet is so remote and difficult to get to that it is visited by only a handful of pilgrims each year. (Art Space Gallery Press Release)

The majority of the other paintings in this and the third rooms are close ups of rock faces, many of them from quarries in Italy, Tasmania and his native Cumbria.

Cooper rock face

They are very detailed and standing back they are very realistic – particularly the Cumbrian works. However, they also have an abstract quality particularly when viewed a little closer.

A number of his paint brushes and palettes give an insight into his method of work. He works on large canvases yet despite this many of his paintings are started “plein air” and supplemented by photographs and then finished back in his studio Working in a large scale he uses large paint brushes with long handles, sometimes extending them to make them even longer.

Julian Cooper

It must be something of a challenge to get his large canvases up into the relatively inaccessible locations in the mountains.  I found this interesting article by the artist, describing how he went about painting the holy Mount Kailish in Tibet.

The Nan Bield Pass

Today Kentmere is a quiet, isolated spot. This wasn’t always the case. There are three passes that lead out of the valley (besides the road from Staveley) one to Mardale in the north, another to Troutbeck to the west and the third to Longsleddale in the east. So at one time, many years ago, the valley would have been a relatively busy crossroads for people and, in many cases, their animals, travelling between the Lakeland valleys. There was also industry in valley with slate mines to the north of the village and although they’ve been closed for many years now there is still evidence of the mining activity on the hillsides.


On Tuesday, the first full day of our stay in Kentmere, the weather forecast was for intermittent rain and we’d planned a low level circular walk up along the river to the reservoir at the head of the valley and back. But one thing we learned during our break was not to trust the weather forecast. It was raining heavily when I got up but by 10 o’clock the rain had stopped and the cloud was clearing. By 11 we had sun and blue skies. It was windy, though, and I expected that the wind would be much stronger on the exposed ridges of the high fells. So we set out with a plan to start out on the low level walk but if conditions looked promising to cut up the Nan Bield Pass at the north end of the valley and then loop back along Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike. For various reasons this changed plan didn’t work out but we did manage to climb to the top of the pass.

Setting out at about 11:30, we crossed the river and walked through the village, making our way along the road until we reached the well defined footpath which ran along the floor of the valley parallel to the river. There had been a lot of rain during previous weeks so the path was wet and frequently quite muddy.


We were soon into more open country with the high fells appearing on the horizon



Eventually we could see most of the high fells comprising the Kentmere Horseshoe


We had to cross numerous becks (the Cumbrian term for a stream) – only one of them was bridged so our boots got wet – not a bad thing as it washed at least some of the mud off them!


The path started to climb gradually. We passed Kentmere Pike


We spotted several old mine workings such as this one, high up on the side of the fell. What must it have been like to work here? P3140705

The workers would have lived in huts near tot he mines, making there way down the valley to spend their wages in the local pub on their day off. The mine workers were so rowdy that the local magistrates withdrew the licence for the pub in Kentmere  and the village has been “dry” ever since . The nearest pub is in Staveley.

Carrying on climbing steadily up the path. To our left the reservoir constructed 1848 to regulate the flow of the river which powered mills further down the valley. Ill Bell and Frostwick can be seen towering over the lake. The steep flank of the former plunging down into the small man-made lake.


Looking further up the valley towards High Street – it’s hard to believe that there was a Roman Road up on the fells.


The top of the pass was becoming ever closer, but still some way to go. So far the path had been a relatively easy gradient as height was gained gradually, but we could see that there would be a much steeper climb to come.



We eventually made it to the top where there were views down into Mardale, the next valley to the north. This had been flooded during the 1930’s creating a large reservoir – Haweswater – to supply Manchester with water. The small settlement of Mardale Green was submerged in the process.

Zooming in


It was extremely windy at the top as the wind funnels through the gap, making it difficult to stand up. We’d only made a the late morning start and the the sun would start setting at 6 o’clock. It had taken longer than anticipated to reach the top. So discretion being the better part of valour we decided to retrace our steps rather than risk walking in strong winds on an exposed ridge with a chance of not making it back down before it went dark.


Harter Fell and Kentmere would be there another day! In any case, it had been a good walk through some dramatic countryside, and as the top of the pass is just over 2,000 feet high, it was a decent enough climb!

Wetherlam and Tilberthwaite


Friday morning and the view from the bedroom window looked promising – sunshine, albeit with cloud over the tops of the fells. So it looked liked we be able to go ahead with our plans for the day – a walk up Wetherlam (2503 feet), one of the Coniston Fells, at the other side of the ridge from the Old Man.DSC01016

We headed into the village and took the path towards Coppermines valley along the river. We passed the Ruskin Museum.


The Yewdale crags looked inviting


Along the path to Coppermines valley


passing the Miners’ bridge


The fells came into view


An industrial landscape with the remains of mining and quarrying industries. There’s still a working slate quarry in the valley


We took a right turn and started our ascent to Wetherlam


Looking back over Coniston Water


On our left there were great views of the Old Man and Swirl How. The cloud had largely cleared from the tops.




We passed a small tarn


and views over to the mountains of the Fairfield Horseshoe opened up


We could see Windermere in the distance


Finally, we reached the summit of Wetherlam. There were a few other people around but I reckon it would have been a lot busier on top of the Old Man.


It was a clear day and there were great views of the surrounding mountains.

Scafell, Scafell Pike, Pike o’ Blisco, Crinkle Crags and Bowfell


Over Langdale


Helvellyn and the Fairfield Horseshoe


Over to Windermere


Swirl How


We decided to descend the way we’d come up and then cut down the valley to Tilberthwaite before doubling back to Coniston along Yewdale.

Taking in the view of Coniston Old Man


and Coniston Water


At the bottom of the descent we reached Hole Rake which we were to follow along to Tilberthwaite


In the bright afternoon sunshine and good visibility the views, and autumn colours, were outstanding




Eventually we reached Tilberthwaite Gill



Looking back to Wetherlam



The late, low afternoon sun was illuminating the distant mountains


and intensifying the autumn colours






Looking down into the Tilberthwaite valley we could see a sheepfold (more about that in another post)


After a short stop we set off down the road towards Yewdale passing Holme fell on our left




Reaching the Ambleside to Coniston road through Yewdale we took the path on the right side of the road that led through the woods back to Coniston



The view across the valley


Finally reaching Coniston


Looking back over the Yewdale crags


We stopped at the Co-op in the village to pick up some supplies, but it was still light and a lovely early evening so we decided to take a detour over to the lake

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It was after 5 o’clock by now and the Bluebird Café was closing up. However, they have a take away window and this was still open so we bought coffees and sat for a while enjoying the view. 


There were a few other people around, most of them tempted by a brew or ice cream

Canoeists coming back in after a trip on the lake


A brave soul going in for a swim


The sun began to set so time to make our way back to our B and B.


A beautiful sunset to finish off a great day


A walk in the Tarren Hills


After our first night in Dolfannog Fawr, in the Tal-y-llyn valley, we were determined to get out for a walk in the surrounding hills. We asked Alex, our host, for some advice and he suggested we try a favourite route of his, which would take us up two mountains in quiet countryside. He said the countryside was beautiful with good views and that we probably wouldn’t see another soul once we got on the hills. The route is described in a number of guidebooks including the Mountains of England and Wales: Vol 1 Wales (Cicerone Guide) by John and Anne Nuttall. The start of the walk was a short drive away in the village of Abergynolwyn.

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We parked up in the village, in the car park opposite the Railway Inn, a reminder that this was the end of the Tallylyn railway. The narrow gauge railway was originally built to transport slate from the Bryn Eglwys slate quarry, which is up in the Gwernol valley, but later also operated a  passenger service. Today the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society operates regular services carrying tourists between Nant Gwernol station (just up the valley from Abergynolwyn) to Twyn on the coast.


We passed the sculpture of water nymphs and headed up the steep road that started to take us up along the Gwernol valley


We were soon in pleasant deciduous woodland, climbing and walking along past a series of waterfalls


Climbing the hill we came to Nant Gwernol station, the end of the Talyllyn railway line.


We climbed a steep incline to take us up to the winding house.


We carried on along the paths through the woods, eventually reaching the forest road that wound through the commercial evergreen plantation



Eventually we veered off the forest road heading up a steep path up to a “notch” in the ridge which led to the summit of Tarrenhendre. It wasn’t so easy to spot the path but we’d been told to watch out for an Outward Bound hut on the road. The path ran up the hill a short distance before it.

As we climbed a great view over the hills towards Cadair Idris opened up.


It was a steep climb up to the summit of Tarrenhendre which, at 2,080 ft, just qualifies as a mountain.


As we climbed higher, looking west  and south west there were great views towards Cardigan Bay and the Dovey estuary.


Another view of Cadair Idris looking north east


Reaching the summit we headed east and could see our next objective, Tarren-y-Gesail, ad the ridge we needed to walk along to reach it


Looking back towards Tarrenhendre from the ridge


and over to Tarren-y-Gesail


The route seemed to veer into the forest  on a path that was clearly indicated on the OS map. It wasn’t very clear in practice! This was the only unpleaant part of the walk as the path was difficult to make out,was overgrown and we had to hack our way through dense vegetation. it would be better to find an alternate route along the ridge avoiding the forest.


Eventually we escaped from the dense forest and were back on open moorland with another steep climb that took us up Tarren-y-Gesail, which, at 2,188 ft, is slightly higher than Tarrenhendre

The view from the top of Tarren-y-Gesail   looking north


We walked along the peat covered ridge which was boggy in places. There wasn’t a clear path but we made our way down towards the edge of the forest plantation. Forestry work had been taking place which made navigation and conditions underfoot a little difficult. We came to a forest track and decided our easiest option was to follow this back down the valley. This made navigation easier but as the road meandered down the hill it probably added an extra mile or so to our route.


Eventually the village came back into view, nestling amongst the hills


Half an hour later we were back at the car. We hadn’t seen another human being since starting the walk until we reached the edge of the village and passed a local taking his dog for a walk.

It had been an excellent walk taking through some varied countryside – broadleaf woodland, evergreen forest and high moorland with great views over mountains, sea and the Dovey estuary and with some industrial archaeology to provide some additional interest. It had been a long day and we were tired when we got back to Dolfannog Fawr, but after a quick shower and a change of clothing we had a delicious home made meal to look forward to