Yewdale, Holme Fell and Tarn Hows

The second day of my mini break in Coniston I’d decided on a lower level walk. I checked out of the hostel at about 9 and walked the short distance to Shepherd’s Bridge to set off down Yewdale. It was a gey start to the day, with low cloud up on the high fells, but the weather forecast looked promising for later in the day.

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Holly How YHA

The walk down this very scenic valley is one of my favourite low level walks taking me through pleasant fields and woodland with good views over to the fells to the north.

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The Yewdale fells over the fields to the left
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Holme Fell ahead
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through the woods
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Holme Fell
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Cloud over Wetherlam
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I turned down towards Yew Tree Farm. Owned by the national Trust the farm featured in the film Miss Potter about Beatrix Potter starring Renée Zellweger. In the film it stood in for Hill Cottage where the author lived, but, although she owned the farm, she never actually lived there. The current tennants sell their Herdwick Hogget (young sheep between 1-2 years old) and Belted Galloway beef. They’ve been on TV a few times recently (including Countryfile on the BBC) – a good advert for their business I bet! We’ve bought their meat several times via the internet and I have to saya that we all think that their “Beltie Burgers” are the best burgers we’ve ever eaten.

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Yew Tree farm – a very picturesque setting

Here’s some of their Herdies!

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I took the path behind the farm and began the climb up Holme Fell

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a couple of curious Herdies!

It’s not one of the bigger fells – just over 1000 feet – but it was a sharp, steep ascent.

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but there are great views from the top. It was still grey and overcast but there were still 360 degree views

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There was some peeking out over Wetherlam

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Holme Fell is probably one of the best viewpoints for looking over Coniston Water

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I stopped for a while, taking in the view and trating myself to a snack and then I started to make my way down the other side of the fell. This is the second time I’ve been up here but I still haven’t worked out the best way down. The path I took metered out and whichever way down I’ve taken inevitably results in some bog hopping.

This used to be slate quarrying country and there was plenty of evidence of the industry between the fell and Little Langdale.

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My route followed a track that eventually headed east, over High Oxen fell (which isn’t very high!) back towards the Ambleside to Coniston road. The views over to the fells from this road was outstanding, especially as the cloud was clearing and the sun beginning to appear.

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Reaching the main road I crossed over and took the track following the Cumbria Way towards Tarn Hows

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Looking across to Holme Fell

I had considered walking over to Black Fell – another small fell that’s a great viewpoint – but decided against it for two reasons. My knee was starting to give me a bit of trouble and I was also keeping my eye on time as I had to catch the bus from Coniston back to Windermere at 4:30 to make sure I connected with my train back home. So I carried on following the Cumbria Way to Tarn Hows where I stopped for a bite to eat.

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I deviated from the Cumbria Way following the western side of the tarn with the extensive views over to the Coniston Fells

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At the end of the Tarn I followed the metaled track back towards Yewdale. The weather had really changed now with plenty of sunshine, and it was getting warm.

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Making my way back down Yewdale I passed through a field on unusual Dutch spotted sheep

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Carrying on down Yewdale Coniston Water came into view

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Reaching Shepherd’s Bridge on the edge of Coniston, I had a couple of hours before my bus was due so I decided to walk over to the lake

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Looking across to the fells from the path to the lake

On a sunny afternoon there were a lot of people enjoying themselves out on the lake

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Time for a brew and a slice of cake in the lakeside cafe!

After enjoying people watching for a while by the lake, I headed back towards the village

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had a mooch around and then joined the group of people waiting for the bus back to Windermere. It was running late but I had a chat with a couple of liverpudlians who were heading back to Bowness via Ambleside.

I arrived back in Windermere an hour before my train was due (I’d bought an advance ticket for the last direct train) so bought a few supplies from Booth’s supermarket and then sat and ate my purchases on the platform. The direct train ended up not being so direct. It was due to terminate at Manchester Airport but signalling problems (had somebody been nicking the copper cable again?) meant it would now terminate at Preston. Luckily it was only a short wait there before I was able to find a connection which got me back to Wigan only 15 minutes later than originally scheduled.

I’d had a good couple of days in Coniston and despite the slight delay on my way home using public transport was a welcome change from sitting in traffic. I’d have liked to stay another night given the fine weather, but I had a meeting the next day. September’s going to be busy, but I have a family holiday to look forward to at the end of the month

https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/10078471/Yewdale-Holme-Fell-Tarn-Hows

Dow Crag

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When does summer end and autumn begin? Well for me, the August Bank Holiday signals the start of the transition between the seasons. September is the end of the school holidays and the prospect of a busy time at work is on the horizon. So the Bank Holiday weekend is the last shout of summer, but also a time when everywhere is busy, the motorways are jammed and half the rail network is shut down due to engineering works. So definitely not a time to be heading out. This year, though, I managed to extend the Bank Holiday by a couple of days and book a place in the Youth Hostel in Coniston. So on the Tuesday, when most people were back in work I took the direct train to Windermere and then caught the bus (an entertaining ride between Ambleside and Coniston on little wiggly roads encountering cars – how the driver didn’t hit them I’ll never know!). It took longer than it would if I’d driven, but I enjoyed being able to look out of the window and appreciate the scenery for once.

I arrived in Coniston about 12:30 and set out on the walk I’d planned, by passing the Old Man and heading up Dow Crag. The village was busy but I was soon away from the crowds, setting up across the fields that would take me up to the Walna Scar Road. I had thought I might follow the shore of Coniston Water down to Torver and cut up from there, a route I’d fancied trying for a little while, but I wanted to get to the hostel around 6 o’clock and I reckoned that would take me a little too long to achieve that objective.

Crossing the field of Belted Galloway cattle – there was a bull at the other end of the field!
Looking towards the Coniston Fells

and back down to Coniston Water

On the Walna Scar Road

Reaching the old track, about a mile after the quarry car park, I carried on climbing gradually and the Dow Crag ridge with Brown Pike and Buck Pike came into view .

I turned off a short distance before the Torver Bridge taking the path towards Goat’s Water and Goat’s Hawse. As I climbed the path, i started to encounter people coming down the path. A popular return leg from Coniston Old Man for those who park up at the Walna Scar Road quarry car park.

I eventually reached the foot of Goat’s Water with Dow Crag, a mighty wall of rock, popular with rock climbers, looming over the tarn.

It’s a tricky walk along the shore of the tarn, over the boulders. The ascent up to the Hawse started at the top of the tarn.

Looking back to Goat’s Water from the top of the Hawse

over to Dow Crag

and over to the north west I could see the Scafells, although the summit of the Pike was obscured by cloud

Looking over to Swirl How and Grey Friar

and looking to the east, there’s the Old Man

It was a grey afternoon and I could see rain falling over to the east and also over the Scafells. I was keeping my fingers crossed it wouldn’t blow over and although there were a few drops, it never really started to rain over my chosen route.

Looking across Goat’s Water down to Coniston Water. Looks like it’s raining over Grizedale forest.

I stopped for a short while for a bite to eat and then started my climb up towards Dow Crag

Dow crag is the first of three summits on a ridge to the west of Goat’s Water. It consists of steep, rocky crags that plummet down to the bottom of the valley, the west side is a much gentler slope. It’s a much quieter along this ridge than on the old Man. There was a couple taking the same route but that was it, although I saw a walker and three mountain bikers coming the other way after I’d reached Brown Pike.

Approaching the rocky summit of Dow Crag

Looking back to Swirl How and Grey Friar

and across to the Old Man.

Getting over the summit of Dow Crag is a bit tricky but it’s easy walking after that.

A good view down to Coniston Water opened up. Definitely some rain falling over that way

After the summit I passed the steep gullies beloved of “crag rats”. They’d be a quick way down but that’s not exactly advisable!

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can you spot the “crag rat”?
zooming in

I couldn’t help keep looking back towards the Scafells

The next summit along the ridge was Buck Pike. After crossing over the summit I could see down to Blind Tarn. It got its name as it has no apparent inflow or outflow

As usual, there were quite a few Herdies up on the fell

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The summit of Brown Pike where I met another walker tackling the ridge from the opposite direction

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Starting my descent down Brown Pike, the last of the three summits

I was soon back on the Walna Scar Road heading down towards Coniston

There’s the Torver Bridge

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Carrying on I eventually reached the Walna Scar Quarry car park. They’d done it up a bit since the last time I was there and had started charging. A lot of people start their ascent of the Old Man from here, where they’re already getting on for 200 metres above the lake saving some climbing.

This was the view over to the fells.

After the car park I was walking on tarmac for a while, before taking a path down towards MIner’s Bridge at the bottom end of Copper MIne Valley.

Looking down to Coniston village
The view along Copper Mine Valley

After crossing over the Miner’s Bridge, I followed the track down towards Coniston

looking back to the bridge

and then took the path along Yewdale, passing the hostel and then doubling back to check in. It was about 6;30 pm, only a little later than planned.

This time I’d reserved one of their land pods – a kind of cross between a pod and a tent. I think they look like some sort of alien spaceship – but I didn’t end up getting abducted!

Back on the moors again

Last Thursday it was too nice to stay stuck indoors staring at a computer screen so I decided to drive over to White Coppice and get up on the moors. My recent foray onto the Kinder Plateau had reminded me of the wild West Lancashire Pennine moors – although Kinder is higher and has more Millstone grit outcrops and rock formations, it’s very similar. I’d grown up trampling on these moors and always enjoy being up there, whatever the weather. But Thursday was a sunny day and less likely to be a quagmire underfoot!

I expected there would be quite a few people tramping up the main path up Great Hill from the hamlet so I decided on a less frequented route, up the clough (pronounced cluff), the narrow valley in the hillside, and along the Black Brook. As the water level was relatively low, followed the brook rather than the easier path a little above the water, which involved some easy scrambling, but a little more challenging than normal!

The lower sections of the brook show the influence of humans. This was an industrial landscape at one time – stone quarrying and mining for lead – and there’s still plenty of evidence of it’s history as you follow the brook.

There’s an entrance to an old lead mine in the side of the hill

After a while the valley starts to level off

and the summit of Great Hill becomes visible across the heather and bracken.

I left the clough and followed the path that took me up on tot he main path up towards the summit.

Passin the ruined farm of Drinkwaters

This is probably one of my favourite views – it brings back so many memories of walks up here when I was a teenager.

Carrying on up to the summit

It was a bright sunny day but long range visibility was poor. A pity as it’s an excellent viewpoint on a good day with views in every direction. There’s Darwen tower and Pendle Hill. I could just make out the Lake District Mountains, Ingleborough and the Snowdonia range in the murk but they wouldn’t come out in my photos.

After a short break in the shelter I descended down the flaged path

and then at the bottom of the hill took the path heading westwards.

Approaching the ruins of Great Hill farm. You don’t see many people on this path, but there’s usually plenty of sheep!

Looking across the moor – there’s Round Loaf to the far left – which is covered with heather, although the colours haven’t come across well in the photo.

A closer view of the purple heather in bloom

After Drinkwaters, at the fork, I took the path over Wheelton Moor towards Brinscall. It’s flat level path which I think was originally constructed to allow access to the moor for grouse shooting.

They don’t do that up here any more (a good thing too), but there is clear evidence that it used to take place. Here’s an old, disused shooting butt, there’s several along the side of the track

Carrying on, looking over the moor I could just make out the distinctive shape of Pendle Hill in the distance

I descended down the narrow road towards Brinscall

but before the bottom took the left turning down the path through Wheelton Plantations.

I then followed the path along the Goyt back to White Coppice

It’s a very picturesque hamlet, but again has an industrial histrory – it was originally a mill and mining settlement.

No cricket match today

First time on Kinder

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Yesterday was the 12 th August, the so called “Glorious twelfth” when artistocratic landowners and their wealthy friends and clients ascend the moors to start blasting grouse with their shotguns. Until relatively recently, landowners would ban the hoi poloi from enjoying the largely empty extensive tracts of moorland – all year round not just during the shooting season – to allegedly protect their investment (i.e. the birds). It was only the enactment of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW Act) that granted a public right of access to land mapped as ‘open country’ (mountain, moor, heath and down) or registered common land, known as ‘open access land’. It took many years of camapigning to achieve this right and given that most landowners weren’t exactly keen on the idea, it required more than gentle persuasion. In the 19th and 20th Century direct action was taken by more groups who organised “tresspasses”, the most well known being the one organised by the Manchester branch of the British Workers Sports Federation, supported by radical walkers from Sheffield, on Kinder Scout April in 1932.

The Kinder Tresspassers Source: https://kindertrespass.org.uk/kinder-mass-trespass-history/

Now being something of a radical myself, I’ve been rather remiss in never having been up on Kinder (prononced Kin-der and not Kind-er), although I’ve looked over it from the “Great Ridge” on the occassions I’ve walked over there. But on the second day of my recen short stay in castleton, I put that right, of a sort as I didn’t follow the route of the famous trespass.

Kinder isn’t really like your typical mountain, rather it’s an extensive elevated plateau of peat moorland and there are a number of access points and criss crossed by many paths. It’s popular and I expected the routes up from the western end of Edale, near the station, on a fine summer’d day, would be busy. I had in mind a route I’d considered once before after my first ascent of Win Hill in January 2020 when I considered following the path over to and then on to the eastern side of the Kinder plateau. At the time, in the midst of winter, I’d though better of trudging through what was likely to be a morass of wet peat, which was probably the sensible decision. But in ealy August I reckoned the risk of being swallowed by the bogs would be low so I planned a route from the hostel, going across to Hope, where I could pick up a sandwich for my dinner, then taking the path that (probably) follows the course of a Roman Road, up to Hope Cross. I then climbed the relatively gentle gradient up Edale Moor, the eastern end of the plateau, via Crookstone Hill.

Making my way up the “Roman Road”
View across to Lose Hill from the “Roman Road”
and over to Kinder
Getting closer to Kinder
Looking across the valley of Edale to the Great Ridge
Hope Cross

Hope Cross, is a guide stoop, an ancient way marker to guide travellers such as over the moors. It’s about 7 feet high and dates from at least 1737. The names of 4 nearby towns – Hope, Edale, Glossop and Sheffield, are carved into the headstone. Facing the name, travellers would turn right to head in the right direction, so they were used in a different way to the more familiar fingerposts.

Looking back from Hope Cross
Continuing on to the moor
The way to Crookstone
Starting to climb
Crookstone Hill ahead
Millstone grit outcops – reaching the top of the climb

I then followed the path that hugged the edge of the moor diverting a little to have a look at the “Druid’s stone” where I stopped for a bite to eat.

The path along the edge of the plateau
Looking down Jagger’s Clough. Nothing to do with the Rolling Stones, mind. A jagger was a packhorse driver, many of whom would traverse the moors. The name ” Jagger”is, apparently, derived from a breed of packhorses, the ‘Jaeger’ imported from Germany
Looking across to back Tor and the Great Ridge
The “Druid’s Stone”
A closer look
Looking along the plateau
Approaching Ringing Roger

It was very quiet on the way up – I passed only one couple between Hope and the gritstone rock formations known as “Ringing Roger”.

The peculiarly named collection of millstone grit tors probably gets it’s name from is a corruption of the French word for rock; “Rocher” and the “ringing” echoes off the tors.

Millstone tors at Ringing Roger
View from Ringing Roger

I could have descended from here down into the valley to Grindsbrook Booth, the main settlement in Edale, but it ws not long after midday and on a fine day I decided to carry on along the path along the edge. It was noticeably busier now as I was approaching the parts of the moor popular with walkers starting from Grindsbrook Booth.

Looking across to Grindsbrook Clough and Grindslow Knoll
Looking across to Nether Tor and Upper Tor
Carrying on laong the path
Looking down to Edale valley and the great Ridge
Rock formations at Upper Tor
Looking back
Looking down Grindsbrook Clough

The path did a “dog leg” as I crossed over the top of the dramatic Grindsbrook Clough. This is a popular route up on to Kinder from Edale requiring some scrambling up a steep rocky gorge along a stream. I considered going down this way, but thought better of it (didn’t trust my balance and dodgy knees) so i continued on towards Grindslow Knoll, one of the higher points on the southern part of the plateau.

The “Mushroom stone”
Looking back across the clough from Grindslow Knoll
Looking across the clough to Higher Tor
Starting my descent
The view across Edale

It was generally a good path down to the valley, although there were some steep and rocky sections (no scree, though!).

Reaching the bottom of the valley

I followed a nice gentle path across the fields towards Grindsbrook Booth, the main settlement in Edale, joining the route of the Pennine Way!

The start of the Pennine Way

I always thought the Nags head, a few yards further on, was the official start, but there you are, perhaps they’ve decided to change it.

I stopped for a brew and slice of cake at the campsite cafe

Just what I needed!

and after a rest had a quick look round the small settlement

and then walked down past the church, the railway station and the main car park and made my way to the path that would take me up over Hollins Cross and back towards Castleton.

I was starting to feel tired by now but this was a necssry obstacle to get back tot he hostel.

Looking up to Hollins Cross
Looking back to Kinder

Looking back down I could see the old Edale Mill. A water powered cotton mill established in 1795 and only closing around 1940, today its been converted into fancy, expensive, appartments. During its time as a working mill, many of the workers lived in or near Castleton on the other side of the pass and they had to make their way up and down over the ridge twice a day and, unlike me who was lucky in having a peasant sunny day, would have to do this in all sorts of conditions all through the year.

Eventually my tiring legs reached the top of the pass

The top of Hollins Cross
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Looking back across edale to Kinder

and then I started my descent towards Castleton.

Heading down to Castleton
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Mam Tor over to the right
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Zooming in on Winnat’s Pass
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Zooming over towards Peveril’s castle

Reaching the bottom of the pass I followed a quiet track and path through fields back towards Lose Hill Hall.

A welcome sight after a long walk!

My route

It had been a long day, but a good one. I’d had my first experience of the Kinder plateau, but there’s much more to explore on the western and northern sides, including the Trespass route (including Kinder Downfall and Kinder Low) , the northern edge and Fairbrok Naze. Since I got back I’ve been doing my research and further visits are on the cards.

Bamford Edge and Win Hill

Trying to make the most of a quieter period at work during the summer months, I took a chance and booked another short break in a Youth Hostel, this time in the Peak District. Although not so far from home, I’ve never enjoyed driving there. I need to get round Manchester on what is usually a busy Motorway (due to everyone commuting into the city) and then the drive down the A6 through a number of Stockport suburbs and former industrial villages on the edge of Derbyshire can be a pain. It always seems easier driving north up to the Lakes, the Howgills or the Westmoreland Dales and, to be honest, the landscape is more interesting and the walking is better. But the Peak District has it’s attractions and the Edale and Hope Valleys are accessible by train avoiding the drive and the need for finding a parking spot (although, that does require changing at Manchester Piccadilly) and I’d taken that option a few times over the years. So, having managed to book a room at the Lose Hill Hall hostel near Castleton, and as the family car wasn’t available, I packed up my larger rucksac, boarded the train from Wigan Wallgate and set off for a couple fo nights. I was lucky with the weather and manged to get in a couple of days good walking before the black clouds and heavy rain arrived on the Wednesday.

The area is on the boundary between the peaty moors and millstone grit edges of the Dark Peak and the limstone landscape of the White Peak so the hills and valleys are different in character to those up in Cumbria. There isn’t the equivalent of the “Wainwrights” – although the Great Ridge and parts of the Kinder plateau can rival the popular Lakeland fells for the number of walkers. As usual, I’d pored over the OS map and consulted a few guidebooks in advance of the trip and had plotted out a couple of routes with an option for a third day. I’d walked the Great Ridge from Lose Hill (close to Hope station) to Mam Tor a few times, so this time wanted to do something different. I’ve found the two little Vertebrate walking guides very useful along with another book, The South Yorkshire Moors by Christopher Goddard with it’s hand drawn maps and interesting snippets of information. Of course, the Peak District is mainly in Derbyshire as is the area covered by the book! Now isn’t that just typical of someone from Yorkshire. Not satisified with it being the largest county in England they have to cheekily purloin parts of other counties and claim them as their own. 🤣 (I’d also recommend his book on the West Yorkshire Moors – which, in that case, actually are in Yorkshire!) I don’t necessarily stick rigidly to the suggested routes, but use them to give me ideas and inspiration.

I booked a return ticket to Bamford. I’d be returning from Hope but it was cheaper than buying two singles. My plan was to walk up across Bamford Edge, then over Win Hill down to Hope and then on to the hostel at Castleton. (Route). Alighting at Bamford station it was actually almost a mile down the road from the village. So a walk up the tarmac was required having decided against extending the route to avoid it. At the village I turned down a road that would climb steeply up towards the Edge. I hadn’t gone too far up the road when I spotted a sign telling me that the road and path were closed. It was being resurfaced. The workmen were having their dinner in their cabin so I had a quick word and, fortunately they told me that they’d completed the work that morning and I could proceed without a diversion.

The road was very steep and I was carrying a larger than usual ruscksack as I had packed for a two night stay. But I managed to keep on going taking the occassional stop to take a look at anything that caught my eye – like this sculpture by the side of the road (any excuse for a blow!).

Looking up towards the Edge. Grey cloud was looming but the forecast was reasonable. It was warm, but not too warm, and the risk of rain was low despite the thick cloud cover.

Reaching the road that runs across the lower reaches of the hills I crossed over the stile aonto the moorland proper

and carried on climbing.

These grit stone edges though, are flat topped hills flanked by steep gritstone cliffs, so after a relatively short climb it was easier going.

It was quite busy with groups of families and friends, many of them who probably parked up on the road below the edge so hadn’t had to climb too far and were clustered at the two major cliffs at the top of the path..

Looking across the valley I could see Win Hill and over to mam Tor and the Great Ridge as well as the great bulk of Kinder.

Carrying on along the path I was soon away from the crowds, encountering only the occasional walker

Looking down I had a good view of Ladybower reservoir

and straight ahead I could see Derwent Edge.

But my route wouldn’t take me over there, I was looking for the path that did a bit of a dog leg and descended down to the end of the reservoir. There was a lot of bracken which made it difficult to actually find the path. Reaching a stream (they’re not “becks” down in Derbyshire) the map told me I’d gone too far. Retracing my steps I spotted a trace of a path through the bracken so took my chance – it was the right one.

I descended down thick bracken and then more pleasant woodland

until I reached the main road directly across from the Ladybower dam.

Looking back towards Bamford Edge

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I crossed over the dam and there was another one of those carved stones.

I took a path through the woods. It was easy going at first but then a sharp right turn and I was climbing very steeply up the flanks of Win Hill.

It was tricky in places and I wouldn’t have been keen on coming down this way. I eventually emerged onto moor land with the summit of Win Hill in view. Black cloud was looming. Rain was defintitely coming my way.

I reached the summit

I’d been up here once before, climbing up from Hope station, back in January 2020, when the Covid was just something in China that we’d heard about in the news. Nothing to worry about (if only). Despite the grey skies and flat light that wasn’t so conducive to photography, the views were excellent in every direction.

(We’ll pretend the Hope cement works isn’t there!)

As I stopped to take in the views and have a bite to eat, the rain arrived. It wasn’t heavy but it was time to put on my waterproof coat and attach the rain cover to my rucksack.

After a while I started to make my way down the hill towards the village of Hope with views of the Great Ridge under dark cloud before me. It was a steep descent in places, hard work on the knees.

Reaching the village the rain had eased off and I stopped of at a cafe for a brew and a flapjack. Rested I set off towards Castleton, passing the old Pinfold before taking the path that follows the river in the direction of Castleton.

Pinfolds were used to hold sheep that had strayed from their owner’s land. A fine then had to be paid for their release. The one in Hope is in good condition and was in use as late as 1967.

The path travered pleasant fields with good views over to the hills. The last time I’d been down this path the fields were drenched and for most of the way the path was so muddy it felt like I was walking through the trenches on the Somme. But it was quite different this time

Reaching Casltleton, a short walk along the road and then a long driveway and I’d arrived at my digs for the next couple of nights

Steel Fell to Helm Crag – the Greenburn Horseshoe

My last day in the Lakes and it promised to be an absolute scorcher (by Lakeland standards, anyway!). I was up early and soon on my way up to the fells. I’d decided on a horseshoe walk starting by going up Steel Fell and then making my way round to Helm Crag before coming back down into Grasmere. I’d been up all of those medium sized fells before, but never done them all in one sweep. (Route map)

Making my way along the quiet lanes from Grasmere towards Steel Fell

Looking over the fields towards Seat Sandal, Fairfield and Stone Arthur.

There’s Steel Fell ahead.

Starting the climb up the fell. It’s quite a steep ascent and I took it easy. It’s not as popular as the fells overlooking Easedale or the bigger ones on the other side of the A591 and I didn’t anyone else until I reached the summit.

Getting closer to the top. The route is mainly on grass with a couple of rocky sections that required some easy scrambling.

Looking back down towards Grasmere. There’s Helm Crag over to the right on the other side of the valley.

Reaching the top there were excellent views on a great day.

Looking down over Thirlmere with Skiddaw and Blencathra on the horizon.

The Helvelyn range to the east

Looking to the west with the Coniston fells peeking over the smaller Easedale hills.

Taking a rest at the summit and taking in the views I encountered my first fellow walker of the day. He’d come up a lot quicker than me walking at pace. I said hello and started to chat. He was friendly enough but seemed a little confused when I asked him about his route and wasn’t completely coherent. I moved on and a little later he overtook me an sped on his way.

Looking down Greenburn Bottom

I reckon the section of the route across from Steel Fell to Calf Crag would be very boggy in the winter or after heavy rain. No problems today though.

I reached the summit of Calf Crag and rested for a while before making my way down the second arm of the horseshoe

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Looking across to Steel Fell

It was a little busier on this leg of the walk as there’s a popular route along Easedale and then along the ridge – I’ve walked it in both directions myself. One fellow walker on catching me up slowed down to chat as we carried on along the ridge. I enjoy the solitude of the fells but also like to chat with other walkers and swap experiences. This shirtless and well bronzed walker, who had the wiry look of a fell runner, was relatively local, from Workington. He was a similar age to myself but had retired early and was able to get out on the fells more or less whenever the fancy took him, like another walker I’d met a few days earlier returning from my walk up Glaramara and Allen Crags. I was quite jealous! We parted at the bottom of Helm Crag as he descended down the zig zag path before the summit while I carried on and made my way to the summit.

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The view from Gibson Knott towards Helm Crag

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At the bottom of the final climb up to the top of Helm Crag.

On top of the fell. It’s known as “The Lion and the Lamb” due to some distinctive rock formations. I can never see why they’re called that myself!

Looking down to Grasmere

I stopped on the summit for a while taking in the views. It was midday by now and getting hot, but there was a welcome cooling breeze on the top of the ridge.

Time to make my way down now. It’s a sharp steep decent and I had to watch my footing in places. It’s a steep ascent too, of course and there were a few groups making their way up. I was quizzed by a couple of them -“how long will it take to get to the top?” (not an easy one to answer – it depends how fit you are!) and “is there a breeze at the top?” from another group feeling the heat.

Reaching the bottom, hot, sweaty and hungry I decided to stop and take on of the tables at Lancrigg which used to be known well known as a vegetarian hotel (we’re not vegetarians but stopped there about 30 years ago when my daughter was a tiny tot). When ordering a sandwich I discovered that the menu is no longer meat free. There’s been a change of owner – and all the staff seemed to have come from Liverpool – you can’t mistake that accent!

I enjoyed my sandwich and a well earned brew and after settling the bill made my way back to Grasmere. I had a mooch round the village and bought a few small gifts to take back home for the family. No gingerbread, though, the queue was horrendous!

I’d had a great few days in the Lakes and had really struck lucky with the weather (will I be so fortunate during my next expedition?). I’d ticked off a few items on the bucket list while I was in Borrowdale and was glad I’d extended the break an extra day in Grasmere. Now it was time to head back home via the M6. Fairly easy going most of the way – except for a jam approaching the Tickled Trout junction near Preston due to an accident. To quote Tom Jones – “it’s not unusual”.

A lower level walk in Borrowdale

Thursday was my last day in Borrowdale. I wasn’t leaving the Lakes quite yet, though. When I’d checked the weather forecast the week before my break it llooked like the weather would continue to improve as the week went on (it did indeed) so I’d checked out availability in hostels and mangaed to get a room for one night in Grasmere. But I still had another walk planned in Borrowdale before I moved on.

The mini heatwave had definitely arrived and after two days of heavy walking amongst the high fells I decided on a lower level walk. I left the hostel and drove the short distance to Rossthwaite and parked up in the small National Trust car park in the village – free to NT members, of course. I was amazed when I arrived before 9 o’clock to find it was almost full, but I managed to grab one of the last available spaces.

After booting up I set off, walked through the village, crossed the road and took the path that headed across the fells to the remote village of Wattenlath.

It was already beginning to heat up so I took it slow up the hill looking back several times up Borrowdale towards the high fells.

There definitely wasn’t any cloud on Great Gable today – but it would have been hoard work climbing up the steep slopes on a hot day. The route to Watendlath involved some climbing but nothing like the previous two days.

Zooming in – not a cloud in sight anywhere near Great Gable – but you could probably guarantee if I went anywhere near the mountain the cloud would suddenly descend!

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Here’s the view across the valley to High Spy and dale Head

The terrain was different than the previous two days, grassy moorland instead of bare rock

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Approaching Watendlath

It’s a small hamlet nothing more than a farm with a small collection of other buildings, standing next to a small tarn. Almost hidden in a valley between Borrowdale and Thirlmere, besides the pass from Rossthwaite and paths over the fells from Thirlmere, it can be reached by driving up a narrow road from Ashness Bridge.

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The National Trust cafe was shut due to you know what and there were very few people around other than a group walkers arriving at the car park, and some contractors working on a new hydro-electric scheme.

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Oh, and a couple of fishermen on a rowing boat in the middle of the tarn.

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After a brief rest beside the tarn I set off past the pack horse bridge and followed the path along the beck. What a glorious day!

Reaching a bridge over the river, rather than cross to the other bank I turned left down the path that descended through woodland past the popular Lodore Falls.

Passing the falls (i couldn’t get a decent shot) the path started to descend steeply down towards Derwent Water. I caught glimpses of the lake through gaps in the foliage.

I emerged near the Borrowdale Hotel. After a short walk along the road I took the path across the flat fields towards the lake.

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I approached and crossed the bridge over the River Derwent

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and then took the path along the south shore of the lake. It was certainly a glorious day but getting hot as midday approached.

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This part of the route often flood in the winter when the lake level rises

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Reaching the minor road that runs along the west side of teh lake, there was a shortish walk along the tarmac until I reached the village of Grange. The village orignates from a farm (that’s what Grange means) built by the monks of Furness Abbey in medieval times. The Abbey owned a lot of land hereabouts and sheep farming was a major income source for them. One of the ways the monastic houses accumulated vast wealth which Henry VIII eyed up and got his hatchet man Thomas Cromwell to confiscate for him.

I passed this interesting little church – the Holy Trinity – which dates back to 1861.

The design of the stonework above the windows and door was particularly striking

I was flagging a little so stopped at a nice little cafe by the old bridge. My blood sugar had dropped so some food was needed and a baked spud with trimmings and a slice of Dutch style apple pie was just the ticket – made a change from sandwiches!

After finishing off my meal I set off again following the course of the River Derwent through woods below Castle Crag on the path towards Rossthwaite.

Looking towards the dinky Wainwright, Castle Crag

Not surprisingly there were a few people splashing about in the river.

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I diverted off the path to take a look at a disused slate mine

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The path eventually emerged from the woods and continued through fields back to Rossthwaite

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over the bridge and past the stepping stones

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Arriving back at the village, before returning to my car, I stopped off at the Flock Inn cafe for a brew and slice of tea loaf to refuel before my journey to Grasmere.

Here’s a map of the route

Third time lucky?

The weather had continued to improve so on the third day of my little break in the lakes I decided to tackle a favourite mountian – Great Gable. It’s a big, distinctive lump of rock that stands out from the surrounding fells. It’s not “pretty” like some – using a French term I’d describe it as “jolie laide”. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but you can’t fail to be impressed by it’s ruggedness. And it looks very different depending which side you’re viewing it. It’s prettiest face being the one viewed from Wasdale where it appears as a classic pyramid. But for me, whatever the angle, Great Gable remains a favourite fell.

The summit is one of the best viewpoints in England with views across to the Scafells and down Borrowdale, Wasdale, Ennerdale and Buttermere. If succesful (not garanteed!) it would be the third time I’d have climbed this great hulk of volcanic rock. The first time was when I was 16 or 17 (with a party from school organise dby our maths teacher who was the spitting image of Bob Harris, the presenter of The Old Grey Whistle Test). It was not a fine day to say the least. It rained all the way up and the summit was enveloped in cloud and we couldn’t see a thing. The second time was when I had a short break in early May a couple of years ago. I reached the summit with heavy snow falling and the views completely obscured. Would it be third time lucky?

It was fine day as I set off up the valley towards Seathwaite. Although I could see fairly thick cloud up above the fells, given the forecast I was optimistic that it would “burn off” and disperse.

I took the path on the east side of the river to Seathwaite and then it was on to Stockley Bridge

and up the Sty Head Pass

Looking back to take a photograph down the pass was a good excuse for a short rest!

Casrrying on the cloud was clearing and it was getting seriously warm.

Reaching Styhead Tarn the water looked very inviting and several people had accepted the invitation.

I stopped for a short break for a bite to eat and then set off again towards the brand new stretcher box.

There’s Great Gable. It doesn’t look so high – but looks can be deceiving!

I started my climb. It definitely wasn’t as easy as it looked! So several brief breaks were required as I made my way up the steep path.

Looking back down to Sty Head Tarn.

and down Sty Head Pass

I eventually reached the summit, to be greeted with

cloud!

I decided to hang around for a while with the hope that it might clear.

I took alook at the monument dedicated to the members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club who died in World War I. The club bought 3,000 acres of land including Great Gable which it donated it to the National Trust in memory of these members. An annual memorial service is held here on November 11th, Remembrance Sunday.

My patience paid off, at least to some extent, as some gaps appeared in the cloud. For the first time I was able to experience the classic view down Wasdale and Wastwater,

and down Ennerdale and the Buttermere valley

Unfortunately the cloud reappeared.

Anyway, although a little disappointed I started to amke my way down the very steep path to Windy Gap ready to climb the neghibouring fell of Green Gable.

It wasn’t any easy descent and in some places more than feet were required!

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But I eventually made it to the hawse in one piece to be greeted with the view of Ennerdale

and the Buttermere valley

The climb up Green Gable, although up scree in places, was considerably easier than the ascent of the fell’s bigger sibling! Being lower down the views weren’t obscured by cloud.

There was a definite difference in the weather between the western and eastern fells, with thick high cloud above the former while the latter were experiencing blue skies and sunshine.

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I descended down Green Gable ready to climb my third fell of the day, Brandreth.

Looking back towards Green Gable and Great Gable from the hawse

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Then a steady climb up Brandreth

I was getting drunk on the views by now

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After Brandreth a relatively easy, although boggy in parts, bimble over to the final fell of the day, Grey Knotts followed by a long, steep descent towards the Honister pass. It was tricky in places and difficult underfoot.

Feeling tired, I was glad to reach the Slate Mine car park.

But I was far from finished. I had to get down the Honister Pass to Seatoller and then make my way back to the hostel. So a few miles to go.

There was a short section of tarmac to endure

but the route soon diverted on to the old toll road, walking on a track, gravel and stone initially but then on grass.

The path emerged at the hamlet of Seatoller and then my route took me along a short stretch of road, passing Seatoller Farm where I’d stayed during my last visit to Borrowdale.

Then it was back along the riverside path to the hostel. I was ready for a shower – and just made it in time for my allocated slot!

So was it third time lucky? – sort of, I guess.

Irrespective of that I’d had an excellent, if exhausting day. I had managed brief climpses from the summit but was also able to savour the views from 3 other fells I’ve never tackled before on the return journey.

Here’s a link to the route

Glaramara and Allen Crags

After a good night’s sleep I was up fairly early and during breakfast was checking the weather forecast for the day ahead. Warm dry conditions were promised and I was looking forward to a good day up on the fells. I’d decided to try my luck tackling a couple of the bigger hills within walking distance of the hostel – Glaramara and then on to Allen Crags. I’d been working up to a more challenging walk in the months since I went under the knife so this would be the moment of truth.

I followed the path along the banks of the River Derwent and then cut across the field past the Mountain View row of cottages

Looking up the valley there was plenty of grey cloud, but I was hoping it would clear during the day.

Crossing the road, I took the track towards Thorneythwaite Farm, turning off soon after onto the path that would take me up Glaramara via Thornythwaite Fell.

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Looking back down Borrowdale as I climbed

The route was taking me up a very typical bowl shaped glacial valley

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I was making my way slowly up the path and was passed by a much more energetic, and younger, walker, but I was happy to take my time making gradual progress and enjoying the views across upper Borrowdale (there’s the distinctive shape of Fleetwith Pike peeking over the Seathwaite fells)

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and looking back down the valley towards Derwent Water and Skiddaw

Carrying on climbing

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There’s Great Gable in the background over the valley – a great hunking piece of volcanic rock

The summit of glaramara finally came into view – still a little way to go

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Close to the summit I was faced with a wall of rock and some scrambling was required. I veered a little to the right taking a slightly easier route.

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A couple of walkers were already at the summit as I arrived. I said hello but they weren’t so friendly and were soon on their way heading towards the next objective. There’s Bowfell, Esk Pike and Scafell Pike in the distance.

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Time to stop now for a bite to eat while enjoying the views. The cloud hadn’t cleared but it was high level and didn’t obscure the views of he surrounding fells. It was warm though

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Another couple of walkers arrived and we chatted for a while. But overall it was a quiet route – I didn’t encounter too many people until I reached Esk Hawse. These fells are are not far from Scafell Pike which acts like a magnet leaving other smaller fells to those of us who like to avoid the crowds.

Time to move on so I set out heading towards my next objective – Allen Crags. It looked a little further than I expected! The summit is only slightly higher than that of Glaramara but to reach it entailed a descent before climbing to regain the height. The route took me over some marshy ground and past a number of small tarns. Fortunately, after a dry spell, the ground wasn’t too boggy. It would be harder going during the winter, no doubt.

After a brisk climb I reached the summit. Time for another short break. Visibility wasn’t bad and there were extensive views as far as Derwent Water and Skiddaw to the north and Windermere to the south

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Looking back towards Glaramara

Looking over Sprinking Tarm towards the great bulk of Great Gable

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Great End

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and across to Scafell Pike

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I descended down towards Esk Hause. I now had two choices – strike left, down to Angle Tarn and return to base via the Langstrath Valley or turn right and return down Grains Gill with the hordes returning from climbing Scafell Pike. I decided on the latter as it was a shorter route – I was begining to feel tired and sapped by the heat – and because I felt that the views would be more dramatic.

The latter was certainly true!

The path was relatively easy going at first, but soon started to descend steeply down the rugged Gill.

The path was busy too which wasn’t a surprise as this is a popular way up and down Scafell Pike. I kept overtaking and then being overtaken myself by several people as we stopped to take breaks.

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The sun had started to break through as I made my way down the valley and the temperature consequently was rising. I was glad when I reached Stockley Bridge. I stopped for a rest by the water but I knew that it would be flatter and easier going down towards Seathwaite and beyond.

Reaching Seathwaite Farm I turned off to take the path to the east of the river, a quieter route back to base as the walkers who’d been up Scafell Pike returned to their cars parked up on the narrow road on the other side. However, I wasn’t alone as another walker had the same idea. We exchanged pleasantries as we held gates open for each other and soon got chatting properly, walking togther back along the path. He told me that he’d been up Esk Pike from Stonethwaite via Langstrath and was returning via Grains Gill creating a circular route. He’d retired early and as he lived in Penrith was able to get out onto the fells whenever he felt the urge. I was quite jealous! We parted when we reached the road near the Mountain View Cottages and I retraced my steps back to the hostel along the river.

Click here for a map of the route

A break in the Lakes

Earlier this year I decided to book a few days in the Youth Hostel in Borrowdale in the Lake District to try and do some walking among the higher fells. I was taking a chance as I had no idea what the weather would be like, but I struck lucky.

We’d had a wet and miserable few weeks, but the forecast was optimistic for some good weather. I drove up via the M6 on the Monday morning, through some heavy rain, but by the time I’d got past Penrith the cloud was clearing and the sun was peeking through.

I had some time to kill before I could check in at the hostel so I stopped off in Keswick to have a mooch around and to pick up a few bits and bobs from the outdoor shops. It was market day and the streets were busy, but it wasn’t too difficult to maintain some social distancing. After I’d made my purchases I popped into Jav coffee shop for an ice coffee – it was becoming hot and sunny. They had some seating out on the pavement, but it was all taken, but I I had no trouble finding a seat indoors.

Then it was back to my car for the start of the drive down Borrowdale. I stopped off at the National Trust car park at Great Wood taking advantage of the free parking which is one of the benefits of my NT membership. A short walk through the woods and I was on the lake shore taking in the views across Derwent Water to the fells beyond. It was cloudy and the light was very flat so not so good for taking photographs, but I snapped a few anyway!

Calf Close Bay is probably my favourite spot on teh east shore of the lake.

I always make a bee line for the sculpture by Peter Randall-Page. The Hundred Year Stone was commissioned to celbrate the centenary of the National Trust.

It’s carved from a glacial boulder from Borrowdale. Positioned close to the water I’ve seen it in vary stages of “drowning” as the lake level rises and falls. Despite the recent rain it was a few feet from the water during this visit.

The Hundred Year Stone by Peter Randall Page

I chatted a while with a couple of amateur photographers and then made my way back to the car for the drive down to the hostel. It didn’t take long so after driving nervously down the narrow lane lined on both sides with dry stone walls I had a short wait before I could check in.

I dumped my stuff in my room and had a bite to eat and then decided that I’d walk along the river to Rossthwaite, the nearby village.

The attractive cottages would once have been the abodes of workers from the nearby quarries and mines up on the fells. Today tman of them are holiday lets or B and B’s and as well as being pretty would cost a pretty penny to purchase.

Looking down the valley I was tempted by the profile of Castle Crag – a small fell guarding the entrance to the valley – which wasn’t so far away and as I had a couple of hours before darkness started to draw in, I decided to head over there.

I made my way up the path

Reaching the top, which required a short, steep climb up a slope of slate waste (there was a quarry here at one time) there were good views all around. To the north

Skiddaw looming over Derwent Water

the south, up Borrowdale towards the high fells

and towards Stonethwaite and Langstrath

and over to the fells to the east

The sun was beginning to dip behind the fells and the light was starting to fail, so I made my way back to Rossthwaite and then through the fields to the hostel. After a drink of diet pepsi to quench my thirst (they were out of low alcohol beer, sadly) it was time to turn in.