Lake District, Castlerigg stone circle, Great Wood and Friars Crag

Monday was our last day in the lakes and we had half a day for a walk. Feeling a bit tired from our weekend of fell walking, we wanted something ‘flattish’ and not too taxing so I thought Castlerigg stone circle would be good. We’d not been there before namely because it seemed only a brief walk from Keswick with not much else around but of course, there’s always something else nearby if you only bother to look! We set off via the old railway route and then a brief walk up, we were at the stone circle just before 11am.

castlerigg stone circle

It’s a pretty fantastic spot with great views and just very peaceful. We thought we were alone for a moment and then this guy got up from within the circle, started walking about and taking photos then stood, for ages right next to the stones making notes or something, just really not stepping away to allow us to take photos. We respectfully stayed away while he was taking photos so it was a bit disappointing that he couldn’t do the same for us. I was lucky to even get this photo of the whole circle, soon enough there were cars arriving and lots more people turning up. One couple literally parked right by the entrance, walked up to the centre, turned around, walked back out and drove off straight away. OK, that must have been an experience to remember… Anyway, it’s a great spot and allowed us a view of Low Rigg and High Rigg, just to the left, which we both loved the look of and would like to return to for a proper walk. This is the wonderful thing about the Lake District, you can get the most marvellous views even from a low spot like this (at 210m) on a cloudy Monday morning. The low fells near Keswick, Walla Crag, Latrigg, Cat Bells are all brilliant for views. And of course, Helm Crag near Grasmere, which we walked on Sunday and the fells near Ambleside – Loughrigg Fell and Wansfell Pike, the first fells we walked in the lakes a couple of years ago.

dalesbred or swaledale sheep

As we left Castlerigg stone circle, could not help self from taking yet another sheep photo, have researched it since (as you do) and seems to be a Swaledale or possibly a Dalesbred. It was very cute.

Instead of walking straight back to Keswick, we decided to prolong the walk and had a wander about the Great Wood, which is just underneath Walla Crag and always seems very quiet.

path through great wood

And the obligatory photo of a mossy log – woodland moss is the sort of thing that’s good for one’s soul.

obligatory mossy log

Not wanting to end our walk at Great Wood either, we walked across to Derwent Water, me realising that although we’ve walked most of the lake’s shore, we’ve never actually been to Friars Crag. I also remembered The Guardian mentioning it as good for star gazing in their best British walks booklets last year. Why didn’t I remember that the day before? Actually, it was cloudy, wouldn’t have mattered.

tree root derwentwater shore

Tree roots on the shore, we both got very snap-happy with tree roots, I’ve some underexposed shots that make them look like H.R. Giger’s Alien drawings.

derwentwater and catybells from friars crag

The clouds didn’t lift for us at Friars Crag but I still liked the view. The outermost bench was taken so we found another nearby, I liked the view through the trees even more.

friars crag bench view

 

Friars Crag is a very short distance from Keswick town centre, where we had coffee – there is a new caf that uses Monmouth Coffee, which I love, lunch and an early bus to Penrith (we nearly missed the train back to London on our last visit as the bus was late). Did not want to leave, especially after this lovely little 5.5 mile walk. Back next year for sure, Beloved thinks we should stay longer and maybe learn to drive too otherwise we’re limited to visiting in the tourist season as some buses don’t run all year round. At Penrith train station, I gave away our weekly bus passes to an American couple heading to Keswick – passes still good for a couple more days, they were surprised and I wished they enjoy their stay as much as we enjoyed ours.

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.

Antiquarian bookshop finds

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I keep going on about the large stack of books waiting to be read and then what do I do? Buy more books… Think I can be excused this time, these came from a lovely antiquarian bookshop in Keswick, mentioned in my last post. Why these books in particular? When I have time to read fiction, I try to catch up with some new and good-sounding new releases and I am also working my way, very slowly, through Guardian’s list of 1000 novels everyone should read. I know there are lots and lots of ‘must read’ and ‘100 best’ type lists around, I just found The Guardian’s pretty comprehensive – all those classics you never get around to conveniently placed on one list as well as many 20th century authors that people of my generation or younger may not be aware of any more, Barbara Pym being a good example. I also add comments and other recommendations to the list, India Knight came up with a very good list of comfort reads a couple of years back and the Rosamond Lehman was one of her recommendations, looking forward to reading it. Am currently reading Howard’s End and very much enjoying it. Have read A Passage to India before and I love how Forster’s writing seems measured, perhaps that’s not the right word, proper, maybe with all these tensions and insecurities bubbling up underneath. Wonderfully realised characters, boxed in by their own and the society’s expectations and codes of behaviour according to class, is your money new or old – can they ever mingle and ‘how to help the poor’, being a favourite topic of the ladies debate club the sisters in Howard’s End belong to. Wouldn’t it just be fabulous if you had the time to read great books all day long…

Lakes journal part 2

Got back from the Lake District last night, always sad to go home and especially so yesterday, it was a glorious day after rain, rain and more rain. We decided to do a walk near Keswick on our last day and went up to Walla Crag, which is easily walkable from town centre and has marvellous views for what’s only a little hill:

And on the other side, view of Keswick and Skiddaw behind – so happy we’ve managed to climb it this time:

We walked to Ashness Bridge, which I think I’ve posted on before, then back via Great Wood, around 6.5 miles and skipping over lots of little Gills swollen with weekend rain. Back in Keswick, got some local cheeses from the cheese deli and pork pies from the butcher for the journey home (well, you have to!) and spent the last hour browsing old books in an antiquarian/ second hand bookshop which I’d never even seen before. They’ve a tiny little window on street level and the shop is on the first floor, so easily missed. I drooled over a very old Complete works of Hogarth but, at £140 was a bit much so bought some paperbacks instead – Howard’s End was a perfect read for train back home.

Bank holiday Monday weather was pretty nasty so we ended up taking a bus to see Aira Force. Luckily we were early, only a few people about but the car park filled up as we were leaving. It’s only a short woodland walk and most definitely worth it, the waterfall is highest in the Lake District and just magnificent. As we walked back, trying to catch last glimpses of it through the trees, I was imagining what it must be like in bleak winter. Probably pretty awesome,

On way back, stopped for lunch at Horse and Farrier Inn in Threlkeld then decided that the rain wasn’t that bad (we’d gotten really soaked earlier) and that we’d walk back to Keswick via disused rail path, which was very pretty.

Now back at home and looking at all the photos, am slightly disappointed that the ones we took from Skiddaw on Friday are blurry and just not that good. By the time we reached the top, the clouds were pretty ominous and my fingers were clearly too cold to hold camera steady, still here are a couple:

I originally planned the climb to be via Ullock Pike and Long Edge, just visible on the left – looking down at this path almost made me dizzy! Am sure it’s fine in good weather though.

Blencanthra in the distance, this was taken on way back down. Guess this is it for the Lakes this year, very sad.

Lakes journal

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    Coniston boat launch

Back in the Lake District for a long Bank Holiday weekend. Beloved thought we should have waited until September but I know my work will be busy and I won’t be able to take time off. We arrived in Keswick on Friday afternoon and it’s been positively heaving with people since. Not that we have spent a huge amount of time in Keswick but you notice restaurants and pubs are much fuller than in early July when we were last here.

It has been raining quite a lot since we arrived, which happens here pretty often making it more difficult or unpleasant to do certain walks, but so far, the weather hasn’t affected us much. On Friday afternoon, Skiddaw, the highest local peak at 931m and 5 and a half miles out of Keswick, was bathed in sunlight so we went for it thinking we probably wouldn’t get another chance. We were at the top just after 6pm after passing lots and lots of other walkers on their way down. We had the top to ourselves, a deserving end to a pretty exhausting climb (we are not very fit). I took lots of pictures with the camera, none with phone, so will post when back home. By the time we reached the top, the weather had completely changed and we were lucky that the rain didn’t start until we were almost back in Keswick. So happy that we did this, views were amazing throughout the climb and from the top. I loved how you couldn’t actually even see the top of Skiddaw for most of the climb, hidden as it was behind Skiddaw Little Man. We haven’t seen the top of Skiddaw since either, it’s been covered in cloud.

Saturday’s weather forecast was ‘rain’ so we hopped on a bus to Ambleside and, from there, on another to Coniston for a day out in that part of Lake District. We were lucky with the weather again, for although it was cloudy, we managed to avoid the rain for most of the day. In Coniston, we walked to the lake shore, famous for Campbell’s crash while attempting speed record in the Blue Bird, had a look at Coniston Old Man standing tall above and thought it could be a good one to climb one day. Then we headed back via Tarn Hows, a short walk from Hawkshead Hill (we got a bus to that point), and this was a simply magical setting, which my photograph doesn’t do any justice to. It was too overcast for my phone. Anyway, you can see that when Lake tourism became popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this is what the ‘picturesque’ tourists had read about and come to see. They still do in large numbers. As we left to catch the bus to Hawkshead, lots and lots more cars arrived. Did not see anyone but us on foot.

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    Tarn Hows

Hawkshead is a charming, twee little village, proper old school with narrow passages and twee shops and tea rooms, I’d been keen on seeing it for some time. We got some very good cake in a cute little tea room for the journey back and then sampled some local ales in a pub. By the time we eventually got back to Keswick, it was raining pretty hard. We only stopped in Ambleside long enough to grab a bite from a caf we really liked last year, Gaggling Goose I think it’s called or something similar. 20120827-073146.jpg

    Hawkshead Bitter and Coniston XL

Weather forecast for yesterday said ‘dry’ so we thought we’d walk in Borrowdale. Got a bus to Seatoller and planned to climb to High Spy, then walk along the ridge and back down to Grange. Only about 20 minutes into the path towards High Spy, it started raining. We decided to have a go at climbing anyway, Wainwright’s guide pointed at only one rough and steep bit by disused quarries. Unlike Skiddaw, though, this climb was fun. 20120827-073205.jpg

    Climb via disused slate quarry

When we got to the top, however, everything was covered in mist and cloud, you could not see more than 20 feet around you. This sort of thing happens a lot in the Lakes. We abandoned the ridge walk, came back down past the quarries, then continued to Grange along the path lower down. Beloved said this was his favourite walk so far, this had everything, gills (mountain streams) and waterfalls, imposing cliffs, disused mine shafts piles and piles of slate, then the scenery completely changes into woodland as you get nearer to River Derwent and Grange. Have no idea how long the walk was, path from Seatoller to Grange is 5 and a half miles without taking the climb into account. Would love to come back here and do the ridge walk as well, it eventually leads to Catbells. 20120827-073219.jpg

    View over Borrowdale, mist settling on our way down.

Not quite sure what we are doing today yet, think it’s meant to be raining, wifi in our room is practically non existent so even checking the weather is a laborious process, hence no blog posts over the weekend and this long, journal one this morning. Has taken a whole to get done so getting it out early before the signal goes off again!