Glencoyne with a diversion to Sheffield Pike

Just a couple of days after a very significant birthday and the weather looked promising. What would be a better way to celebrate by a walk in the Lake District?

I’d been listening to a programme on Radio 3 of a “very special poetic pilgrimage to the Cairngorms” by Robert MacFarlane, inspired by Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain. One of the central ideas in the book is that we ‘should not walk “up” a mountain but “into” them’. The summits aren’t the be all and end all of the mountains – there is much to enjoy and savour at lower levels.

“Often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend, with no intention but to be with him.” (Nan Shepherd)

BBC website

Bearing this in mind I decided on a walk I’d had on my list of possibilities for some time – a walk around Glencoyne – an example of a hanging valley, formed by a glacier thousands of years ago during the last Ice Age – from Ullswater. I’d been up the south side of the valley a couple of times heading up to a summit and greatly enjoyed the scenery and peace and quiet

I parked up at the National Trust car park at Aira Force. I’d set out early so there were plenty of spaces available, which is not always the case at this popular car park which serves the “honey pot” waterfall of Aira Force. I followed the path climbing up beside the river, and after a quick look at the waterfall from a distance, cut across to the Dockray road. Crossing over the latter I took the path towards Glencoyne

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The path, occasionally boggy (not surprising during the recent persistent rain) traversed the hill side, climbing gradually.

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with excellent views along the lake in both directions.

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I passed through a gate and then walked through a stretch of woodland before the path began to climb steeply,

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Soon the views of the lake behind me were replaced ahead by mountains, the higher fells still showing remnants of recent snowfall.

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The path took me along the north side of the valley. It’s a quiet route and I only encountered 3 other people until I reached the junction with the path up Greenside.

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The view down the valley towards Ullswater
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Reaching the head of the valley I decided to divert up to Sheffield Pike – a relatively short climb but over boggy ground.

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Helvellyn and Catstycam visible from the head of the valley
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Looking back as I started to climb up to the summit of Sheffield Pike
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The summit of Sheffield Pike
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Looking down on Ullswater from the summit

It was windy at the top as I grabbed a few snaps. I settled down behind some rocks for some shelter while I had a bite to eat and a hot coffee from my flask. Reenrgised I retraced my steps back through the bogs down to the path that would take me down the south side of Glencoyne.

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Lookings towards the high fells on the way back down
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Descending back down to Glencoyne
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Towards the end of my descent I passed the lonely terrace of cottages known as Seldom Seen. They’re holiday lets now, but at one time they were the homes of Catholic miners, who to were housed here to keep them well away from the predominately non-Conformist fellow workers who lived in Glenridding.

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Looking down to Glencoyne farm.
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Zooming in on Glencoyne Farm

At the bottom of the vally I joined the Ullswater way path which I follwed back to the car park at Aira Force.

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The view back up Glencoyne from the Ullswater Way
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Looking over the lake from the Ullswater Way path
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The National Trust cafe near the car park was still open so I treated myself to a brew and a cake (needed to boost my blood sugar before the drive home!). Afterwards I crossed the road and walked down to the lake to take in the views before returning to my car and the drive home.

In the end, I did visit a summit, but I think the walk around Glencoyne confirms Nan Shepherds contention that a walk through the mountain valleys can be a very enjoyable and satisfying experience.

East of Ullswater

It’s wild and windy outside as I write this, not very summery. But a couple of weeks ago we had a mini heatwave for a few days, so I decided to abandon sitting staring at a computer screen for a day and get out for a walk.

Where to go? The Lake District was starting to open up – I’d seen plenty of posts on social media from people getting up on the fells – but I’d also seen reports of some popular spots getting crowded with day trippers, leaving litter and, potentially spreading something worse. So I thought I’d go somewhere I expected to be a little quieter and where I hadn’t been before, the fells on the north eastern side of Ullswater. I drove up to Penrith on the M6 and then along the country roads to Pooley Bridge – the bridge after which the village is named being reconstructed and so traffic can’t get across from the west side of the lake.

It was fairly quiet as I walked through the village with a few walkers and locals about, but it was only early morning. It was already warm and sunny, but with some cloud about. It would get busier later on but for now it was easy to avoid close contact. I took the minor road up towards Askham fell which soon turned into a track leading up on to the fells.

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I could see my first destination for the day, Arthur’s Pike, over the fields

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There’s Arthur’s Pike again over to the right

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Climbing higher, I reached a signpost that wasn’t that helpful.

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Had I travelled through a time portal? Not really. There used to be a Roman road, High Street, that ran over these fells than ran from the Roman fort at Brougham (Brocavum) near Penrith to the fort at Ambleside (Galava) and this signpost, and a stone bench, the Roman Seat, has been erected on the former route by the Friends of the Ullswater Way.

I carried on and then turned south towards the Cockpit, a Bronze Age stone circle

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carrying on, I diverted off the route of the Roman road taking the path towards Arthur’s Pike. It was a relatively easy, gradual climb up to the summit – just as well as I’d not dome much hill walking of late. After the heavy downpours we’d had in the preceding weeks it was boggy underfoot in places

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Arthur’s Pike

Reaching the summit I stopped for a while to refuel and took in the views

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My next objective was the neighbouring hill of Bonscale Pike. As the crow flies it’s only a short distance between the summits, but there isn’t a direct route so I had to take a “dog leg” to reach it,

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dipping down a valley, passing this sheep fold,

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crossing a stream and then climbing back up the fell side.

Reaching the summit, the views over Ullswater and the high mountains on the other side of the lake were pretty stunning

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Looking over Hallin and Place Fells with the Helvelyn range over the lake
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I could see Skiddaw in the distance
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Looking north over the flatter terrain towards Pooley bridge

Bonscale Pike, which overlooks the small settlement of Howtown, is well known for it’s two “towers” – tall stone structures

It’s a steep climb up from Howtown – my route was definitely easier.

Time to retrace my steps now and make my way over to the old Roman road route. the terrain was’t so interesting and it was boggy underfoot. But I carried on making my way to the next objective, Loadpot Hill.

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On the way up to the summit, on the hillside a hundred metres or so away, I spotted a red deer. it looked at me for a while and then skipped off. Nearby Martindale has the oldest herd of wild red deer in England. It’s the only pure red deer herd in the country, as, unlike other herds there’s been no cross-breeding with the imported Sika deer. I’d heard the deer during rutting season on a walk a couple of years ago, but this was the first time I’d seen one of them.

Loadpot Hill isn’t one of the most interesting Fells. The views from the summit aren’t that great compared to Bonscale Pike. No lake and only distant views of the mountains over the moorland.

I had a decision to make now – how to get back to Pooley bridge. I could have retraced my steps but instead I decided to extend my walk a little and descend down Fusedale to Howown and then make my way back on the flatter option of the Ullswater Way.

So I carried on, picking up the route of the Roman road again. There was a path shown on the map descending down Fusedale between Loadpot Hill and Wether Hill. Well, I’m not really a collector of Wainwrights, but as the path was not far from the summit, I though I might as well “tick it off”. I was taking a short break when another walker arrived, a young woman. We chatted for a while. She’d been following the same route as myself and was also going to descend down to Howtown. Neither of us had spotted the path that was shown on the map but we agreed it looked like it wouldn’t be too difficult a descent. I left before her, knowning she’d soon overtake me. I couldn’t trace the path so descended over the grassy slope – it wasn’t too difficult and it wasn’t that wet underfoot. My OS map app indicated I was on the line of the path. Then, a short distance over to my right I spotted the young woman walker who shouted over to me that’s she’s found a path, so I made my way over and then carried on descending down the hillside.

The views were really opening up now

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Descending down Fusedale

Looking back up the valley

Approaching Howtown

The small lakeside settlement is one of the stops for the Ullswater Steamer. They weren’t running due to the Covid 19 restrictions still in place, but there were plently of people on the lake side and enjoying the cool water. I kept my distance but could resist cooling myself off with some of the water from the lake

I now started to follow the Ullswater Way. It’s a popular route in more normal times and is well signposted. It was quiet today, though. I’d decided on the low level option – the main, higher level route would have taken me back onto the fells near the Cockpit stone circle, but there were quite a few miles back to Pooley Bridge and I didn’t wan’t to overdo it on a hot day.

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There were quite a few groups of people enjoying the sunshine by the lakeside, but it wasn’t difficult to keep my distance.

I was pretty tired when I reached my car as I’d walked much further than I’d originally intended. But I felt pleased and de-stressed after a great walk over a variety of terrains with some superb views. I treated myself to an ice-cream from a local shop before getting back in the car an setting off on my journey back home. Only an hour and a half away.

A walk up Sheffield Pike

I was keen to get out to break in my new boots. Fortunately work at the beginning of January is usually fairly quiet and as there was a “weather window” forecast for last Friday I was able to take the day off and drive up to the Lakes. Checking out the walking sites on the web I’d read that there had been some snow which was likely to still be up on the high fells above about 400 metres. But the going wasn’t expected to be too difficult, except, perhaps, on the higher mountains.

As the daylight hours are short at the moment, I decided to drive over to Ullswater and tackle one of the more modest fells close to the lake – Sheffield Pike. I parked up at the Glencoyne National Trust car park, donned my walking gear and set off to head towards the fells via the pretty valley of Glencoyne. I’d walked up the valley back in July when I took the path that passes through the garden of Glencoyne farm, right under the farmhouse window! This time I’d decided to take the track past the row of former miners’ cottages known as “Seldom Seen”. This entailed following the Ullswater way a short distance along the lake before crossing the road and then joining the old cart track up through the woods.

Walking through the fields from the car park I could see up the valley and across to Sheffield Pike. Yes, there was definitely snow up there, but it didn’t look too bad. Hopefully my normal gear would be adequate to cope with conditions. Fingers crossed!

Looking down Ullswater from the lakeside path

Setting off down the track towards Seldom Seen

Looking down to Glencoyne farm with it’s tradition Cumbrian round chimney stacks

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Approaching the row of cottages

The cottages were built in the 19th Century to house lead miners who worked at the Greenside mine, near Glenridding. It would have been a long,walk to work to the mine, 3 km away across the fell. Just one aspect of the tough lives of the miners. Today the houses are holiday cottages (as any search for “Seldom Seen, Ullswater” will confirm).

Most Greenside miners would have lived in the village of Glenridding and it seemed odd that the houses were built such a long way from the mine when there must have been plenty of land available much closer. According to the following little video, they were built for miners who were Catholic and were housed here to keep them well away from the predominately non-Conformist fellow workers.

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I carried on climbing up the path

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Looking back there was a great view down to Ullswater

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As I climbed I started to see snow on the ground

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There was plenty of snow on the ground at the head of the valley

When I reached Nick Head at the top of the climb, I’d been hoping to get a view of Helvelyn, but the summit was covered with cloud.

I’d not seen another soul since leaving the car park, but now I could see a couple of walkers heading up the path towards Stybarrow Dodd, which I’d followed myself back in July. I hope they were well equipped as the snow would be deeper as they climbed higher. Zoom in on the next photo and you might see them, about two thirds up the hill

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I turned in the opposite direction to start the climb to the summit of Sheffield Pike.

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Still plenty of snow on the ground, obscuring the path. But there were footprints in the snow, probably from the two walkers I’d spotted who must have come over this way from Glenridding. I used their footprints as a guide. The snow was soft and it was possible to walk through it without the need for crampons (just as well as I don’t have any!) but it obscured the conditions, covering what was boggy ground. I soldiered on, passing another walker coming down the hill, and eventually made it to the summit.

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It was cold up here, probably around freezing but with a stiff breeze adding to the wind chill. There was ice clinging to the rocks, but the snow was still OK to stand and walk on and only a couple of inches thick.

Time for a coffee from my flask and a bit to eat while I took in the views.

There was still cloud covering the summit of Helvelyn

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and over St Sunday Crag and the fells to the south

It was clearer looking down towards Ullswater

A couple of walkers appeared coming from the opposite direction from myself. They stopped for a while to chat. They were from Newcastle way and were regular walkers in the Lakes. We swapped stories and I asked them which route they’d taken. They’d come up from Glennridding, taking in Glenridding Dodd and then coming up the steep climb to Heron Pike before walking over to the summit of Sheffield Pike. They confirmed that it was OK – with conditions similar to what I’d experienced coming up from Glencoyne.

After saying our goodbyes, I ploughed on through the snow, which once again was largely covering boggy ground, until I reached Heron Pike at the eastern end of the summit plateau.

I stopped to take in the dramatic view down to Ullswater and chatted with another solo walker who was sheltering while he had a bite to eat.

Looking down on Glenridding Dodd with Place Fell over the other side of Ullswater. The High Street Fells were largely obscured by cloud

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It’s a sheer drop down over the edge here so a little backtracking was necessary to locate the path that would take me down into the coll between the Pike and the small hill of Glenridding Dodd.

It was a very steep descent and I needed to take care where I placed my feet as if I slipped it was long way down! I came out of the snow about a third of the way down, but I was aware that the rocks would be slippery with ice and, where it had melted, water. No scree though! I passed a couple of groups of walkers coming up the path – keen to get their boots into the white stuff.

Looking back from near the bottom of the descent.

Reaching the coll I decided to take in the modest hill of Glenridding Dodd. This small fell was very popular with Victorian visitors as there’s an excellent view down to Ullswater.

Looking back to Heron Pike from the path up Glenridding Dodd

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It didn’t take long to make my way up the path to the summit of the small fell

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but I had to carry on a little way across the top of the hill to get the view over Ullswater. (You’ll need to click on the panorama to get a better appreciation of the view)

and looking in the opposite direction back towards Heron Pike

Looking south east there was a lot of cloud over High Street and the nearby fells

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There’s Glenridding and the Steamer pier

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I made my way down towards Glenridding, which didn’t take too long. Looking back up to the Dodd from the village

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I didn’t stop in Glenridding but passed through the village before joining the path along the lake shore, part of the route of Ullswater Way., for the walk of a mile or so back to the Glencoyne car park.

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Getting close to car park I looked back over to Glencoyne and Sheffield Pike

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Back at the car I changed out of my boots. They’d had a good christening – gravel paths, rock, mud, bogs, snow, ice and a little tarmac!

Driving back along the lake I stopped a mile up the road at the National Trust Aira Force car park. There’s a cafe there which was still open.

Time for a well earned brew with a view of the fell I’d climbed

Glencoyne, Stybarrow Dod, Raise and White Side

The Wimbledon men’s final took place last Sunday. Time to get out for a walk on the fells!

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I drove up to Ullswater and parked at the National Trust car park at Glencoynce, about half way along the lake. I had a route in mind that would take me up to 4 summits and which I expected to be fairly peaceful and quiet, despite (or rather, because) of their proximity to the 3rd highest mountain in England, Helvellyn. It was a bit of an overcast, grey day with very flat light, so not so great for photographs. But it was warm (t-shirt weather even on top of the fells) and the rain kept off so not a bad day for stretching the legs.

The first section of my route took me up along Glencoyne, along the flanks of Sheffield Pike. This involved a walk along a track to Glencoyne farm and then right through their small garden. I wasn’t trespassing – that was the right of way and there was a sign telling walkers to do just that – but it felt wrong, somehow, walking right under their window.

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Looking back to the farm and Ullswater

It was a steeper climb than expected and I soon started to gain height. I passed below the row of former miners’ cottages, known as Seldom Seen which are appropriately named being hidden in the woods on the hillside.

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Here’s one of the locals

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Looking back, there was a good view of the valley and Ullswater

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I continued to climb, skirting Sheffield Pike, up the fell

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I hadn’t seen another soul since I left the car park, but as I climbed up the valley I spotted a group of youths on a D of E expedition, the first of several I saw during the day. It’s coming to the end of term and exams are finished. A prime time for school outings and expeditions.

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Reaching the top of the pass I got my first view of Helvellyn.

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But that wasn’t my destination. I turned right at the junction of paths and started the climb up towards Stybarrow Dodd.

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To reach Stybarrow Dodd I had a steep climb up to another summit, unnamed on the OS map except for mention of “white stones” which were scattered over the summit. From there I could see my destination.

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Looking west – the high Borrowdale fells are covered with cloud.

I don’t know why this top doesn’t have a name and it’s not a “Wainwright”. I suppose the summit doesn’t have a big enough prominence above  the col and is considered an outlier of the higher summit. So I carried on, dipping down before climbing up to my first Wainwright of the day, 2768 feet high.

Reaching the summit there were outstanding views in every direction, despite the poor light. I could see all of the highest mountains in England – although the summits of two of them – Scafell Pike and Scafell – were covered with cloud.

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Skiddaw
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Scafell and Scafell Pike are in there , somewhere!
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Looking over towards Helvellyn – the mountain on the very left of the photo is Raise, my next destination
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Looking towards Keswick with Bassenthwaite Lake and the Solway Firth and Irish Sea behind. I could just make out the hills in Galloway, Scotland.

Stybarrow Dodd is one of a chain of high, grassy mountains that run north from Helvellyn. They rather reminded me of the Howgill fells, further to the east in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I could have chosen to head north now towards Great Dodd

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but my route was going to take me on to Raise, to the south. This required another steep descent down to Sticks Pass before a climb up to the rocky summit of Raise at 2,897 feet.

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Again, there were good views all round

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Looking back to Stybarrow Dodd
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Helvellyn to the south

Looking towards Helvellyn, I was tempted to carry on, but it was further than it looked. I’d come a good distance already and there was a good trek back to my starting point, so I decided against it. It was going to be a long enough walk. But as I descended down the north side of the mountain, I was tempted by the next summit before Helvellyn. Now this summit is another one that doesn’t have a name on the OS map but it’s included in Waignwright’s guide to the Eastern Fells and he Christened it White side, as that appears on the map, even though that relates to the western slopes of the fell. However, Waignwright decided to use the name for the summit and subsequent guide book writers have followed his lead.

So after descending into the col to the north of Raise, I climbed up to the summit. It didn’t take me too long.

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Looking down to Thirlmere from White Side
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Looking north to Raise and the Dodds

I retraced my steps back down into the col and then started the long descent back down to Ullswater. I’d decided to go down to Glenridding and then follow the lakeside path back to the car (and, hopefully, get myself a brew!)

The path descended steeply via a series of zig zags down towards Keppel Cove at the foot of Helvellyn. There was plenty of evidence of the mining that used to take place here in the past.

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There’s an old, damaged, dam at the bottom of the valley. A dam was constructed here to provide water and, later, power for the Greenside mine down towards Glenridding.

I think this is the second dam that replaced the original one which, on the night of the 28th and 29th October 1927 burst, sending a sending a torrent of water and debris down Glenridding Beck and into Glenridding village and causing considerable damage. It’s replacement also was breached only 4 years later in 1931.

Despite the zig zags, it was a steep descent, and, despite using my walking poles, my knees were starting to suffer. But the magnificant view of Helvellyn and Catstycam took my mind off my aches and pains!

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I eventually reached the bottom of the valley and continued to descend down the long track towards Glenridding, passing the former mine workings.

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I arrived in Glennridding with enough time to stop for a brew

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Refreshed, I needed to get back to my car, parked a mile or so away. So I followed the Ullswater trail path that took me along the lake side

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Place Fell that I’d climbed only a few weeks ago
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It was easy going compared to the walk up the fells, and I was soon back at the car. I changed out of my boots and crossed over to take a final look over the lake, before getting back in the car for the drive home.

Another good day’s walking!

Place Fell

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June has been rather a damp squid so far. Lots of rain. Despite this, by keeping an eye on the weather forecast I’ve managed to get out for a couple of walks, largely avoiding getting wet and enjoying a little sunshine.

The first of these was last Sunday when, after a washout of a day on the Saturday, it looked like it could be reasonably clear up in the Lake District, so I set off early and drove up to Ullswater.

I parked up in Glenridding and walked over to the pier. My plan was to take the Steamer over to Howtown and walk back to Glenridding via Place Fell.

I bought myself a one way ticket and boarded the steamer for the half hour journey over to Howtown.

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It’s a pleasant trip, with good views over the surrounding fells

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The steamer was busy and many of the passengers were walkers who disembarked at Howtown. But most of them were following the lakeside path back to Glenridding so we soon parted ways as I took the path to the south of Hallin Fell.

Looking back to Howtown and Ullswater

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There were good views down Martindale, one of the less frequented Lakeland valleys

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Approaching the hamlet of Sandwick, the “foothills” if Place fell came into view

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I’d soon be starting the climb up the fell, but before that I had to cross the river

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As I climbed, looking back, there was a good view over Ullswater

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And there were a couple of the Steamers, passing each other as they made their way across the lake

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I passed the disused quarry with it’s ruined buildings

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The summit came into view

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Up til now I’d hardly seen a soul since I left the lakeside path at Howtown, but now it was rush hour! The Howtown fell race was taking place

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Still a way to go to the summit

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Continuing to climb

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One of the small tarns near the summit

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Made it!

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It was windy on top but I managed to find a sheltered spot to grab a bite to eat.

Place Fell is a relatively modest mountain, but it’s well placed with 360 degree views on a fine day

Looking down to Glenridding and Helvellyn

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across Ullswater

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Towards High Street and the Far Eastern Fells

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I stayed a while and then started to make my way down the fell

The view down to Patterdale and Grisedale where I’d walked only a few weeks before. No snow on the tops today, mind.

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Descending down to Boredale Hawse

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Looking back up to Place Fell

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A view of Patterdale and Ullswater as I dscended

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The view towards the Kirkstone Pass

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Reaching the bottom of the valley I stopped for a brew and a slice of cake at the tearooms at Side Farm

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On the path towards the road at Patterdale I looked back to take in the view of Place Fell

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There was a walk for just over a mile along the road from Patterdale back to Glenridding. I paused to take at look at St Patrick’s church

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It was a grand walk, with the added bonus of a trip across the lake on the steamer! There are plenty of options of walks from Howtown in an area away from the crowds gathering at the honeypots on the other side of the lake. I certainly fancy exploring the fells around Martindale. And there’s other possible routes over Place Fell as well. A return definitely on the cards.

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Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell

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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!

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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.

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A little further up the river – High Force

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

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

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

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This is the view over to Blencathra and Skiddaw

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

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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.

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

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who seemed unwilling to return to her owner.

We reached the viewpoint at Yew Crag

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More good views

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There’s the steamer sailing towards Glenridding

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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.

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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

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The view to the head of the lake

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

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