Lake District, Grasmere to Rosthwaite via Helm Crag and Greenup Edge

Sunday morning in Keswick, I was suffering a little from Saturday’s freestyle fell walking and a bit disappointed that we hadn’t managed the ridge walk from Red Pike to Haystacks due to weather (and taking a wrong path). I had thoughts of going up Helvelyn and then over the Helvelyn range down to Grasmere but the lovely B&B owners with whom we were staying said mountain weather forecast said cloud above 700m so that put Helvelyn out of question. Still, walking around Grasmere remained a possibility. So we decided, on their suggestion to get the first bus to Grasmere, walk up Helm Crag and along the low ridge over Gibson Knott, Pike of Carrs and Calf Crag, then up Greenup Edge and down to Borrowdale, following the stream of Greenup Gill and Stonethwaite Beck into Stonethwaite.

Luckily, the start of the walk, on Easdale Road was just across the main bus stop in Grasmere so we managed to avoid the usual hordes of tourists in the village.

helm crag start of climb

 

Start of the Helm Crag climb. The weather remained cloudy all day and I think this low ridge walk was absolutely perfect for the day – it was pretty windy, not too cold, good walking weather. The views, throughout, were fantastic and it was wonderful to see the changing scenery, from Grasmere Common, to Wythburn Fells and then Borrowdale.

The Helm Crag climb is steep-ish to start but not difficult, quite exhilarating and the path through bracken well defined. It was still fairly early in the morning so we didn’t see many walkers (yet, this is a popular fell), only sheep.

lamb on crag helm crag

 

Nearing the top, we could see over Grasmere Common and Easdale Tarn, another popular walk.

easedale tarn from helm crag

 

Easdale Tarn just visible in the centre of the photo. The weather didn’t allow for better photography unfortunately but this looks a beautiful spot nevertheless.

The famous Howitzer, the actual summit of Helm Crag is a rocky outcrop over a sheer drop, Wainwright completers deem it a difficult climb and Wainwright himself never reached it.

the howitzer and helvelyn range

 

The Howitzer and Helvelyn range beyond. It doesn’t look quite so menacing in this photo but rocks are actually quite tall and a proper scramble.

the howitzer and ridge beyond

 

Our path was along the ridge diagonally left from The Howitzer. This is the first time that we saw where we’d be walking and I was looking forward to it immensely. We chatted here with another couple who were also walking along the ridge, then looping back towards Grasmere. They’d gone up Scaffel Pike via corridor route the day before – something I was quite keen on doing but thought it too much for my fitness levels and easier if you had a car (it’s an 11.5 miles loop from nearest bus stop at Seatoller). I was quite relieved when they said it was hard going and not as rewarding as some other fells. Another group of two couples was also heading along the ridge and it was good to have company to keep pace with, especially as they were all more experienced fell walkers than us.

ridge walk from pike of carrs

 

Looking back over the ridge from Pike of Carrs, Grasmere just visible to the right and Helvelyn range left. From Calf Crag we walked down into a boggy col, with several gills to cross. We freestyled here a little, as the path wasn’t immediately visible, then had a break at the start of the climb to Greenup Edge, sitting behind a rock to protect us from the wind. Another exhilarating, but brief climb to the top – this was the highest point of the walk, just over 600m (Helm Crag summit is 405m, Calf Crag at 537m).

Looking back from Greenup edge top

Looking back from the top of Greenup Edge, Calf Crag, where we came from is on the left. From here, we walked on our own, following cairns marking a loose path along the Edge and picking our way over boggy ground towards Borrowdale.

borrowdale coming from ridge walk

 

Borrowdale valley below, with Eagle Crag to the left – this looked a great little fell to do in future.

greenup gill waterfall

 

Looking back up the path alongside Greenup Gill. We followed the gill down, very picturesque with lots of little falls.

greenup gill waterfall1

 

The way down is long, but wonderful scenery all along the way, we even saw a doe, happily grazing up on Coldbarrow Fell above us, which we got very excited about – we’ve been to Lake District several times before but had never seen any. We didn’t see any other walkers until we got right down near Stonethwaite, so I’m not sure how popular this walk is. I suppose going up, it might be tiring as it would be a long, slow climb. It took ages to reach Stonethwaite but once there, we thought we may as well walk on to Rosthwaite as we realised that we hadn’t missed the last bus back to Keswick. We retired to the Dog and Gun in Keswick for a couple of well deserved pints.

This walk was only 8.5 miles – although it felt longer and took us 6 hours. It really was perfect for the weather and also for our level of fitness. This time, I managed to work out a way of carrying the camera around my neck, safely secured under rucksack strap so that I didn’t have to worry about damaging it. Not sure I’d do this over higher fells though but it definitely saved stopping all the time to take the camera out.

Lake District, Red Pike, eventually

I planned a great ridge walk on Saturday, walking across fells above the Buttermere lake. I’m a great walk planner but often overambitious, especially when it comes to fell walking. Our walks this year have been mostly on flat ground and I tend to forget how much slower climbing is. Our Saturday walk was to follow the path from Buttermere to Scale Force, the tallest of waterfalls in the lakes (I thought Aira Force was the tallest?), then go up Red Pike and continue along the ridge (High Stile, High Crag), ending up on Haystacks. In the end we only managed Red Pike, due to taking a wrong path past the waterfall and, by the time we reached the top of the Pike, the mist had set in so a ridge walk would have not only been pointless but also possibly dangerous. Needless to say, by the time we got back to Buttermere, at around 4pm the weather was beautifully clear again.

rannerdale & whiteless across crummock water

 

Crummock Water with Rannerdale Knots and Whiteless Pike, Grasmoor topped with cloud just behind the Knots. We went up Whiteless Pike last year – again were meant to do a ridge walk but had to turn back due to bad weather.

scale force

 

Scale Force – it’s in a very secluded spot, no other walkers about. The waterfall signified a turn and a start for Red Pike.

view from scale force

 

Looking out from the same spot, Grasmoor looking quite majestic up ahead with Scale Knot to the left. At this point we took a wrong path. I blame the OS map which showed several paths on either side of Scale Force. In reality, there is only one path – it starts before you reach the waterfall. We saw a group just going up, not bothering to see the falls, shame. The path on the other side of the Force, the path we took, must have eroded and we ended up way over on the next fell – Gale Fell. By the time we realised this, we decided to freestyle up and over this fell towards the path up Red Pike. It was hard going through bracken and boggy ground and it was steep but at least we knew in which direction we were supposed to be heading. It was only when we got to the top of Gale Fell that we realised how far off we’d been.

red pike from gale fell

 

Yes, that’s the Pike we were heading for, way off in the distance. We headed for the dip in the ridge (top right of the photo), which actually didn’t take too long to reach and neither did reaching Red Pike from there but the whole getting lost and freestyling up a fell cost us a lot of time. It was also pretty strenuous work and I’d put away the camera for the most part so that it didn’t get in the way and get damaged. I was going to take it out when we got to the top – from here (at 755m) you can see Ennerdale Water, which we’d never seen before (not reachable by public transport). We saw it for a moment, we saw the fantastic ridge path heading towards High Stile and then the mist descended and the camera stayed put so I don’t have any photos from the top. Beloved took some. We started on the ridge path for maybe two hundred yards, then paused behind a boulder for a moment to get away from wind and rain to see if the mist might lift or pass but it just got worse. So, we decided that the ridge walk would have to wait for better weather. As a consolation, we decided to descend via Bleaberry Tarn and, to be honest I don’t think this descent was a consolation, it was torture! It was mainly a stone path with a bit of a scree right near the top (snail pace down), all slippery and wet. We descended slowly and by the time we reached Dodd at 641m, the weather cleared a little, if only temporarily.

crummock from red pike 500m

 

Dodd is just to the right, we didn’t see any need to walk to its edge, we were heading down towards the tarn, just visible in the photo below.

bleaberry tarn first view

 

We had a break when we reached Bleaberry Tarn, I didn’t realise it was at around 500m, thought it would have been much lower. It was really fab seeing it from above, all dark and mysterious.

bleaberry tarn w chappel crags above

 

At the tarn, with Chapel Crags above, ridge path still under cloud. Due to the weather, it took us pretty much 2 hours to descend, I was very slow on the stone steps, this was not fun. The steps went right through Burtness Wood on the shore of Buttermere lake and my legs had jellified by the time we reached the gravel path leading to Buttermere village. All in all, the whole walk, including getting lost and finding the path back, was only 6 miles long. It taught me several things – namely that getting lost is not the end of the world, that freestyling up fells is hard work but quite enjoyable. It also reminded me not to trust the ‘green path’ on the OS maps, this is something I keep forgetting about, the ‘green path’ is often pure imagination. We had just enough time to get ice cream in Buttermere village before the bus turned up – and we got lucky as it went via Lorton valley, which we hadn’t seen before (quite idyllic, seemed flatter than elsewhere in the lakes), then up towards Whinlatter forest and Keswick.

Lake District, Latrigg

We’re in the Lake District this weekend, yay! Arrived on Friday afternoon to a weather forecast of rain and then hopefully dry. Our first afternoon in Keswick, we did pretty much the only nearby short walk we hadn’t done before and climbed Latrigg, a tiny hill of 368m with marvellous views of Keswick. The weather stayed dry as we headed out of town on a familiar path towards Skiddaw and then promptly started raining heavily as soon as we turned from the sheltered path onto Malen Dodd and towards Latrigg top. Once there, the mist had settled all around us and the wind was blowing very hard. Keswick and Cat Bells just about discernible across Derwentwater:

keswick from latrigg in mist

 

We continued along the Latrigg top until we got to a fence where we turned right, away from wind and rain into Brundholme Wood, dark and completely still. We’d walked the old disused railway path on the other side of Greta River and Brundholme Wood before but weren’t prepared for this:

grea

 

My camera certainly wasn’t prepared either but my groaning rucksacks did not allow for packing of tripod. Shame, both Beloved and I wanted to spend hours in here taking photos. Anyway, this rather shaky one gives an idea of the utter silence and stillness and the tall, tall pines.

Once we reemerged onto the path back towards Keswick, the weather had completely cleared. Blue skies almost, which is what I love about the lakes, you never really know what’ll happen with the weather during any one day.

walking back from latrigg

 

Total distance walked – around five and a half miles. On way back, we walked to The Pheasant Inn for a pint before heading back into centre of Keswick.

Rye and Winchelsea

Fabulous weather for a walk yesterday. The forecast was correct for once and I’d had a couple of walks worked out, one in Essex and one in Sussex, neither of which happened in the end because the trains weren’t running (Essex, boo) or were delayed from Victoria (Sussex, boo hoo). Beloved suggested a walk closer to home but I wasn’t ready to give up on the coast that easily so I searched the south coast for a beach walk and National Rail website for getting to beach without having to do plains/ trains/ automobiles and there it was – Rye. Pretty easily accessible on the high speed train to Ashford and then a local train. We did 11 miles walking from Rye towards Winchelsea, then Winchelsea Beach and back to Rye via nature reserve.

This had pretty much everything you’d want from a good walk: great scenery with lots of changes, good nature, not too many people, bits of history… Granted, it was flat but we’re totally out of shape so that wasn’t a bad thing. First, as we walked along the Saxon Shore path, lots and lots of sheep.

sheep walking rye

These two reminded me of the trio of ‘gossiping sheep’ we saw on a walk in Wales last year so I thought this photo would make a good companion piece. Quite a few sheep in this flock seemed happy to even pose for photos, later on in the day they’d all run away. Shortly after, we walked past the ruins of Camber Castle and decided to take a closer look.

camber castle

 

It was built by Henry VIII as defence against a French invasion but abandoned by 1627. There was lots of dried grass around, which made me think of scorched earth tactics and storming castles but managed to contain self and just walk around.

camber castle ruin

 

Love a good ruin, point me in a direction of old crumbling stones and leave me to it. Shame you couldn’t go inside and climb about this one.

My original plan was to bypass Winchelsea but our water supply was running low and Beloved was also quite keen on a pub stop so we did a detour. What a pretty little village. We stopped for a pint and we got some water, then went into the local church, St. Thomas’s (named after Thomas Beckett) and got a brief lecture on its history.

winchelsea church

 

It’s a medieval church, renovated since and now featuring some pretty good Art Deco-ish stained glass windows.

stained glass winchelsea church

 

Not that you can see all that much in my photo. As we’d already been to the pub and the majority of the walk was still ahead of us, we didn’t stay long in the church. I’d also decided to do a shortcut and walk the quickest route to Winchelsea Beach, forgetting the Royal Military Canal route and going across sheep pastures and dikes. The beach was windy and almost deserted.

the sea at winchelsea1

 

We sat in silence listening to the sound of wind and crashing waves. I took a lot of photos of crashing waves. We walked along the shingle beach back towards Rye, then into the nature reserve, where the scenery was completely different again, still and calm.

nature reserve rye

Lots of birds, lots of wild flowers and only a few dog walkers here and there. Good view towards Rye Harbour too (at least that’s what I think it was).

view towards rye harbour

 

We didn’t go into Rye Harbour but came back via the ruined castle although this time, we’d put the map away, decided to be clever and find our own shortcut then promptly got lost in the labyrinth of dikes, scaring a lot of sheep in the process. Eventually found a way out and back to Rye where we had just enough time to sample some very good ice cream before catching the train back. When we got to the station, the tiny platform was already pretty full with ten minutes to train and Beloved had visions of a hellish train journey back from Whitstable last year but all was well in the end and we were home in no time, exhausted, sunburnt (me, despite spraying self with lots of protection) and happy.

North Downs, Westhumble loop

Perfect day for a walk yesterday, warm and pleasant but very difficult to decide where to go. One option was to go to the coast, another was to go in search of bluebells and the last to go to Box Hill in Surrey. Bluebells are, by all accounts, not quite out (I wanted a proper bluebell carpet, not just a few here and there), the weather was a bit cloudy and coastal walk would have been better in the sun so we settled on Box Hill, in a roundabout sort of way. We did a loop, just under ten miles starting and finishing at Box Hill & Westhumble station, walking across Ranmore Common, then along North Downs Way up to Box Hill and back to the station. Scenery was fabulous, Ranmore Common in particular – proper ‘green and pleasant land’, gently rolling hills, woodland coming alive with spring flowers covering the floor and birds singing everywhere around us. The views from North Downs were excellent, even though it was cloudy, the sun would come through every now and then and light up a particular field or a tree. We took a little path just below the actual Downs Way and there are benches scattered along the way to sit and enjoy. Then, quite unexpectedly, as you loop around the Denbies Wine Estate and walk by Aschcombe Wood there they were – bluebells out in all their glory, a proper carpet! Cries of joy and happiness and a warning – bit of a photo overload…

bluebell carpet aschcombe wood bluebells aschcombe wood bluebells aschcombe wood carpet

After this, the rest of the walk was not as good – how can you top the bluebells! Even Beloved was impressed by the bluebells! Anyway, Box Hill was a bit of a let down. The climb was a good little workout albeit spoiled by people coming down, hogging the footpath. The top was heaving with people and cars, hordes of people just drive up then sit down – no wander this country is getting more obese by the minute. We walked about Box Hill too and the further we were from the car parks, the quieter it was. Thankfully, we managed to find a quieter route down through woodland. We stopped for a pint at the Stepping Stones pub in Westhumble, which is a pretty little village, then caught the train back to Waterloo.

trees on Ranmore Common Ranmore Common, we stopped here for a little picnic.

North Downs view from The Spains View from The Spains, North Downs Way.

north downs woodland in springNorth Downs Way, footpath by Denbies Wine Estate.

ransom flowers stepping stones car park Ransom flowers near stepping stones, Box Hill.

clover on mossy tree stump Clover growing on a mossy tree stump, Ranmore Common.

bluebell ashcombe wood And finally, a bluebell

 

South Downs, Devil’s Dyke

We haven’t done a long walk in a whole month and the weather oracle that is the BBC said it would be sunny today so off we went. Several trains later, we got to Fishersgate and made our way across South Downs to Devil’s Dyke. The weather was perfect, the expanse of the blue sky and the rolling hills just so life affirming. It was good to be out.

the hills are alive south downs1

 

the hills are alive south downs

 

Fields and hills on one side, hills, fields and the sea on the other. We stopped at the Devil’s Dyke pub for a couple of pints and a late lunch then made our way back to Portslade and trains back – walked just over 10 miles in total and the last 4 miles in an hour, just managing to catch the Brighton train. All together just glorious but legs a bit stiff now… Oh well, glad we finally have some fabulous spring weather.

devil's dyke coming up

 

view from devil's dyke

 

devil's dyke

Brent river and Grand Union Canal Walk

We haven’t done any walking since the coastal walk back in early September and today looked like the weather would be good so I planned a long walk. We did around 11 miles from Sudbury Town underground and along Brent river valley and the Grand Union Canal down to Thames and Kew Bridge then got the train back. Some great sights, lovely to see the seasons change in the trees and a pretty good constitutional, both feeling a bit exhausted now…

20121007-175339.jpg Grand Union Canal in the sun

20121007-175712.jpg Have forgotten the name of this railway bridge, it was built by Brunel and looked fantastic. Apparently Queen Victoria liked to have her train stop in the middle so she could look out on both sides and take in the views.

20121007-180043.jpg A cute little boat in a marina in Brentford

20121007-180226.jpg And a boat yard. Think next walk we’ll start in Kew then see how far towards Crystal Palace we can get before exhaustion.