Monday, 27 July 2015

Early Mornings on Latrigg

Despite the hustle and bustle you might see at midday on a Saturday on the market square, Keswick is for the most part a sleepy, quiet town. This is never more obvious than on an early morning, before the B&B's have started serving breakfast. Take a stroll in the town and you'll see what I mean.

This is a lovely time to grab an early fellwalk up to the summit of Latrigg. Heading out of town, past the leisure centre and over the A66 at Spooneygreen Lane, you'll probably only meet the occasional fellrunner - especially in the Winter months when these photos were taken.

Latrigg is and always will be a popular fell, but on a number of mornings recently I have more or less had the place to myself. Either following the path as it works its way round to the car park and then following the wide track to the summit, or leaving the path for a direct climb up the steep grassy slopes, it is only a short walk to the top.

Often a very windy spot, a couple of times recently I've almost struggled to take a picture from the top overlooking Keswick, but after taking in the morning air and enjoying the view, you can easily be back down in town in time for breakfast - and you still have the whole day ahead of you!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Castlehead, Keswick

Castlehead is a little rocky mound just on the outskirts of Keswick that is well worth a visit. You can access it either from the path out of Keswick headed towards Walla Crag - turn right along the signposted footpath on Springs Road, and then simply follow your nose and head upwards until you reach the top.

The other option is to approach from the lakeside. Follow the path along the shores of Derwentwater as if headed towards Friar's Crag, and turn inland along the footpath that will take you through Cockshot Wood.

You will come to Borrowdale Road, cross this road and look for the gap on the other side of the road where you can head into the woodland around Castlehead. The hillside is too steep to climb on this side, but just follow the circular footpath round until you see the path headed to the top.

Once you are at the top, you are rewarded with one of the best views of Derwentwater you could imagine. I've been up there on numerous occasions and this is a popular spot for professional and amateur photographers, so why not head up and grab yourself a view that you will have no doubt seen on countless websites and calendars!

You should be able to do the circuit starting from Moot Hall, along the lakeside, up Castlehead and back into Keswick along Springs Road, in a leisurely 60-90 minutes, although be careful as the path around Castlehead can get muddy and slippery after wet or Wintery weather.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

A Crummock Water Circuit

Weather always plays a role in the Lake District and so we rarely venture out without having a couple of walk plans up our sleeves. Today we hoped to explore the Loweswater Fells, but extremely high winds made us rethink any plans of hitting the fells, so we decided on doing a circuit of Crummock Water.

We parked at Lanthwaite Wood, enjoying the shelter of the path through the woodland. As soon as we reached the lake side, the blasts of wind hit us and they were almost enough to knock you off your feet.

The first part of the walk along the lake was flooded so we had to find an alternative path across a field, before getting to the footpath that meanders its way around the lower slopes of Mellbreak. Every now and then the wind would die down, only to hit us again with full force moments later.

The path along Mellbreak was very picturesque, at times hugging the shoreline and on other occasions straying up onto the fellside.

Eventually the wind calmed down and by the time we were opposite Rannerdale Knotts about halfway along the side of the lake, we just had a light breeze accompanying, so we could stop and enjoy our packed lunch.

Eventually we reached the flat stretch of land that separates Crummock Water from Buttermere, crossing over as we passed through Buttermere to reach the opposing shore.

Parts of this walk were along the road, straying off the tarmac for a little circuit around the base of Rannerdale Knotts. We then headed back to the lake shore, into High Wood where we picked up a couple of geocaches.

From here it was a simple walk through the woodlands back to the car. A fantastic path that circuits the whole of the lake, easy to navigate and a walk that I'd happily do again in any weather conditions.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Sale Fell in the North Western Fells

This was one of those typical Lake District days where the weather can't make up its mind - rain, sun, snow and sleet all making intermittent appearances, so we decided to go for something that offered shelter for at least part of the walk.

Sale Fell is the northernmost outpost of the North Western Fells, together with Ling Fell these are the gatekeepers to this side of the Lake District.

It is a straightforward fell to walk - no scrambling required and the paths are very straightforward to follow. We approached the summit by following the path that arcs round to the west, with views over to Ling Fell, before coming back eastwards and heading up towards the grassy summit.

As we approaches the views to the south opened up giving us fine views of the Whinlatter range, ad when we reached the summit there were also fabulous views over Bassenthwaite Lake to the Skiddaw range.

Views over to Binsey from the summit were marred by some unsightly deforestation of Wythop Wood that had left this side of the fell scarred with tree stumps and not much else.

The summit itself is a wide grassy plain that was scenic enough without having the thrill you get on reaching the final rocky outcrop of a strenuous fell climb. This is different walking altogether, and Sale Fell offers the chance to follow your nose and explore the grassy plain, taking in the views all around.

We headed back down the southern side of the fell, through woodland and past the site of Wythop Old Church, before following the road back to the car. A lovely little that is ideal of you only have an hour or two to spare.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Lyke Wake Walk March 2015

So yes, this is one walk we can't stay away from. March 2015 marked our sixth crossing in approximately 18 months, and somehow I don't think we are showing any signs of slowing down.

This walk saw Claire, Dave and myself do the walk walking west to east, which was definitely a good idea as we had a decent tail wind for the most part on this blustery weekend.

We set off from Cod Beck, having had a chat with some volunteers from the "Osy Toads", AKA the Osmotherley Toad Patrol, whose aim it is to make sure as many toads as possible get safely across the nearby main road and to and from the Reservoir. As we set off, we saw quite a few toads resting on the road and I hope they had a successful onward jouney!

Conditions were great until we reached the ford at Hollin Hill after a couple of miles, when a light drizzle became a more persistent rain - time to get the waterproofs on. The weather calmed down after a while, so we had good conditions which is always nicer when tackling the Cleveland Hills. In January the steep steps down from Carlton Bank and Cringle Moor had been icy and treacherous, so we were grateful for the milder March weather.

We opted to go round the tops of the Wainstones and Hasty Bank using the Broughton Plantation route and this path was much drier than I was expecting, so we made good progress on this section.

The climb up to Urra Moor is always a tough one, but knowing that this is the last big ascent for a long while helps put a spring in your step. By now it was getting a bit colder but after cracking open a couple of handwarmers we soon restored feeling in our hands!

When we hit the track at Bloworth Crossing weather conditions deteriorated rapidly and we were soon battling a howling wind and near-horizontal rain. Not what the weather forecast had told us, and these nasty conditions persisted from roughly 2am through to 5am. Our usual banter dried up whilst our bodies took a lashing, as we put our heads down and rode the storm.

We took the path via Flat Howe and this path is becoming much easier to navigate than it was a year ago. We stopped for a breather when we reached the road, and fortunately the rain started to ease, as I wasn't looking forward to crossing the bog in the wind and driving rain.

The rain stopped and the sun started to rise, making the route much easier to follow. I think this was the first time when crossing the bog that the path itself was apparent. We'd always just muddled our way through this section and more often than not in the dark, but here was an actual path for us to follow - amazing!

With a bit of daylight and better weather our spirits lifted and we were back to babbling our usual nonsense. We had a break for food at Shunner Howe, then headed down the wrong path as usual onto Hamer road, meaning going back up the road a short way to get back on the path through White Moor to Blue Man i'-th'-Moss. Conditions on this section were better than expected and after a quick stop to say hello to the man in blue, we made steady progress alongside the Plantation down to Wheeldale Road.

I love crossing Wheeldale Beck, in particular when the stepping stones are navigable. Despite the steep drop down to the beck, and sharp climb back up, this is a little green oasis after miles and miles of bleakness and a lovely place to rest.

We had another food stop at Simon Howe, with the next section over to Goathland Moor clear in our sights. By now it was apparent that we were making steady progress and we really had a spring in our steps all the way over to Fylingdales and up to Lilla Cross.

I always have a bit of a cheer at Lilla Cross, for a couple of reasons. Firstly the cross itself symbolizes the walk for me. Ancient, steeped in history and mythology, this stone is an indelible mark on the landscape that will outlive us all. Secondly, it also marks the spot where the end of the walk is in sight, so let's hear it for Lilla Cross.

The walk across Fylingdales moor is long and draining and without much variation apart from the cairn at Burn Howe. Surprisingly this wasn't too boggy and before we knew it we were perched atop the drop into Jugger Howe. As always this is a test for tired limbs, but for me the variation in scenery more than makes up for it.

We were still steaming along, straight over the Whitby road and upwards towards the radio mast and Lyke Wake stone, completing in a very respectable 16 hours 30 minutes, and in good time to head to the pub and bed for the night.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

A Newlands Valley Walk

In the Lake District you have to be prepared for unexpected weather and it always pays to have a plan B. Some days a high level walk simply aren't meant to be, if the wind and rain decides against it. more and more I am discovering that the alternative walks can be just as scenic and whilst they don't necessarily help in any list-ticking exercises, they are as rewarding as a higher level walk can be.

Earlier this year we had one such day where the windswept fells looked decidedly uninviting. We decided to head deep into Newlands valley to do a lower level walk.

Parking up at Little Town, our planned route would take us around the base of some of the Newlands Horseshoe fells - around the base of Maiden Moor and High Spy, then back around Hindscarth and Robinson before returning to the car.

Although this area is very scenic, popular fells such as Catbells are in close proximity so when the crowds head for the heights, this might be a nice quiet alternative walk. The views into the surrounding fells are incredible and there are really good views  as you look back out of the valley too.

There are plenty of options to change the flavour of the walk - from the valley footpath you can easily take one of the routes up the fells to reach High Spy or Hindscarth. Having rounded the base of Scope End (the buttress of Hinscarth) you go up into the quiet vale between Hindscarth and Robinson.

Here and indeed throughout this walk there is lots of evidence of mining activities and the valley's industrial past. You climb up a bit to reach a reservoir at the foot of Robinson, and in fact it felt like this would be a nice way of getting to the fell tops. The footpath crosses over via an old dam along the edge of the reservoir and we returned via the path along the foot of Robinson.

From here the path more or less led us straight back to the car park of Little Town. This is a great walk for when you're not sure about the weather, as the low level walk is a lot of fun, yet should the outlook brighten up you do have plenty of options for getting onto the Newlands fell tops. We'll be back!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Blea Rigg via Easdale Tarn

I think of Grasmere as being the heart of the Lakes, Right in the middle, accessible from Keswick or Windermere, Coniston or Patterdale, it stands to reason that it is a busy little village. 

With it's literary, culinary and cultural links, it attracts far more than just your hardened walkers which means that although the village might seem bustling with activity, once you get out and about things quieten down - unless you follow the crowds up Helm Crag.

This walk took us up the popular scenic walk to Easedale Tarn, alongside Sour Milk Gill. The weather was not great and this probably deterred a number of people from heading upwards and so the route wasn't too crowded.

The walk up to the tarn is postcard picturesque all the way, with amazing views from the valley floor, along the gill and up to the edge of the tarn.

At this point the weather took a turn for the worse and as we started heading up the path to Blea Rigg the rain and mist set in, so the views were pretty minimal all the way to the top. The climb itself is good fun, with the path crossing rocky terrain before making the final sweep to the top.

As luck would have to the clouds started to dissipate when we were on the rocky summit, giving us glimpses of fell groups all around such as the Langdale Pikes and the Coniston range. The rain also subsided and conditions became very favourable.

From Blea Rigg we followed the well-trodden path towards Silver Howe, stopping en route for a picnic. We enjoyed our food whilst taking in the view over Grasmere towards the Fairfield horseshoe.

We got as far as the summit of Raw Pike, before deciding to head back towards Grasmere. This was a fairly simple but very rewarding walk and a great way to spend a couple of hours in the heart of the Lake District.