Monday, 28 March 2011

Best of 2010 Part 5: Dow Crag to Coniston Old Man

This was the last Lake District walk of 2010 in one of my favourite areas, the ConistonFells. We even got to do a bonus fell on this walk - the snow and low cloud meant we headed off on the wrong path, meaning we did the walk via Brim Fell!

This was also Claire's first walk with an engagement ring on her hand - good thing that we stopped in Coniston village to buy gloves. As well as protecting her ring finger, they came in very handy when the snow started coming down on us - not what we expected for early Autumn!

COM from Walna Scar Road

Having done a few walks in the Coniston area, Dow Crag had been high on my "to do" list for a while, so I was glad to have the chance to show Claire this great part of the Lakes and see Dow Crag.

We got the bus from Ambleside, and were soon headed upwards out of Coniston, past the Sun Inn Hotel and up Walna Scar road. This old road leading to Seathwaite is a nice walk in itself, as you head gradually upwards the view over Coniston water opens up, with Coniston Old Man accompanying on your left. Eventually you come to The Cove and you catch the first glimpse of a brooding Dow Crag.

Torver Beck and Cove Bridge

From here on the views become more and more spectacular, it seems with each step forwards the view of Morecambe Bay gets closer and we could had a view all the way to the Blackpool Tower!

the view out to Morecambe Bay

When you get to a fork in the path the work begins as you leave Walna Scar road and head up Dow Crag. You pass the tops of Brown Pike and Buck Pike on the ridge up to the summit.

Dow Crag summit

From here the views to the west and north become apparent, and you can see right out to the west coast and northwards you start to see the big guns of the Scafell range. The views down towards Goat's Water between the crags on the summit are also very spectacular.

looking down one of the gulleys on Dow Crag
It was here though that we started to see....not a great deal! The cloud came over us and within a few minutes we had gone from bright sunshine to thick cloud!

cloud rapidly approaching

As we headed down the ridge connecting Dow Crag to Coniston Old Man visibility went down to just a few yards, and out of the blue (or white in this case) snow started falling! We followed a large walking party here - big mistake as they didn't know where they were going! We spent a long time following the rim of the summit and it was pretty obvious we were going the wrong way.

After a while we came to a crossing of paths and the cairns there were described by AW in his guide, so we were soon headed back up to Coniston Old Man. As a bonus though, we passed the summit of Brim Fell. I am sure on other occasions there are great views from here, but for today we stopped for a brief moment before heading on along the well defined route.

Coniston Old Man appears ahead of us

The clouds were lifting by now, so when we got to the top of Coniston Old Man we had a good view of the surrounding group of Fells and down to the Lake.

The Scafell range from the summit of COM

Time was not on our side - we had a last bus to catch, and the sun wasn't going to delay in going down, so again we had to push on back to Coniston village. we took a route well familiar to me, taking us past lots of mine shafts and evidence of the industrial path, stopping for a sandwich at the picturesque Low Water.
We soon crossed the stream coming off Levers Water and were on the Coppermines road which took us right back into the heart of the village.

Coppermines road
No stopping at the Donald Campbell Museum, but we did have time for a pint of Blue Bird bitter at the Black Bull Inn. We were entertained on the bus home by a fellow we nicknamed "the colonel" who seemed to have spent quite some time in the pub before taking the same bus as us home. Brilliant day all round!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Swaledale Tour - Muker to Keld

We decided to do this walk at short notice, making the most of the good Spring weather. We headed out through the Swale valley, through Reeth, Low Row and Gunnerside before parking up at Muker.

Muker is a tiny picturesque village right out in the depths of Swaledale, an absolutely lovely setting. Our route would take us from Muker high up along the side of Kisdon fell overlooking the valley below. Just before reaching Keld we crossed the river and returned on the opposite river bank.

The walk started with a good little climb up Kisdon, until we reached the Pennine Way. We followed the path northwards, with just the Swaledale sheep for company - we met very few people out today.
Looking backwards we had fantastic views back down to Muker and Muker Common overlooking the village. Further west we could see Great Shunner Fell looming in the distance.

The walk along the side of Kisdon was fantastic, it was hard not to stop every few seconds to take another picture of the Swale and its many stone barns that were strung out along the dale. We had great views over to Swinner Gill and Crackpot Hall high on the other side.

We then started descending back down towards the river. Just before reaching Keld we followed the Pennine Way all the way down to the river. We had a brief stop at the very picturesque East Gill Force before pressing on.

As well as the old stone barns, there was plenty of evidence that this used to be a working valley, with other old machinery, spoil heaps and spectacular stone mine arches being all that remained from this former industrial landscape.

The land all around us was very lush and green, and the well made paths made for quite different walking to other trails and paths we have walked in the region. Soon enough we reached the footbridge taking us back over the Swale and back towards Muker.


The last few fields had an unusual narrow stone-flagged path to follow, with instructions not to walk off the path and to keep to single file! The reason being that the fields we were crossing were traditional hay meadows. Claire's colleague told us to return here in Summer when the meadows are in full flower - will do.

We were soon back where we started, and it was a fabulous walk that I am sure we will be doing again.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Great Dodd & Watson's Dodd

Following a night in Keswick and a great full breakfast at our b&b we headed out for a Sunday on the fells. We were slightly limited in time, so I decided on Great Dodd and Watson's Dodd as they were more or less in the direction of our home journey, and the distances weren't too great.

Castle Rock from Legburthwaite

We parked up at Legburthwaite with a lovely view of Castle Rock, complete with climbers. The first section was fairly steep and Wainwright's directions were somewhat hard to follow, basically we didn't find find his suggested path around Castle Rock - and we weren't the only ones either, another couple we met on the fells later on had the same problem as us. We did head up through some magical woods before scrambling our way round the rock.

Claire's enchanted woodland

We briefly followed a path round the back of the rock that led us over towards Mill Gill ravine. I think we walked too high up the southern side of the ravine but with the help of a couple of rocks we got across the water without trouble.

Mill Gill

We had another short scramble up to the slopes of Great Dodd, and then the real hard work started! The grassy slope up Great Dodd was very long and pretty steep - a day after our adventures on Barf, Claire must have thought I was doing it on purpose! The route really went on and on, with no change in scenery and Watson's Dodd on our right hand side seemed to tower over us for hours.

hopefully this shows how steep the ascent was!

Eventually the gradient relented and we could finally see the summit of Great Dodd. The views were opening up, with Blencathra north of us, the Helvellyn range to the south and the Far Eastern Fells somewhere behind. It was a shame it was so hazy, as we couldn't really make out distant fells. it was still a gorgeous day and for early March we were really lucky.

Blencathra in the distance beyond Clough Head
The walk from Great Dodd to Watson's Dodd was the first bit of easy walking all day, just following the ridge. It was a shame we didn't have more time, having slogged our way up to the fell tops we had done the hard work and could have enjoyed a couple more fells by following some ridge routes.

looking back to Great Dodd from the summit of Watson's Dodd

Our route back down Watson's Dodd was...pretty much identical to our way up! A long trudge down the steep slopes. At least it was easier going down than up, and we soon made it back down to Castle Rock for a well deserved picnic stop.

the back of Castle Rock and Skiddaw in the distance

We then had a short walk back to the car and easy journey home. A great weekend in the Lakes!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Article Published On Ezine Articles

Just to let you know about an article I have had published on EzineArticles that you might want to have a look at. It's a little tale of my introduction to the Lakes, so if you fancy a read please click here.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Vote for Conservation!

A tricky one this - you can register your vote for your favourite project with the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA). The projects in the running are:

Having walked the Three Peaks I have seen the state of the paths there, and some maintenance is clearly needed. But the Fix the Fells project to implement some repairs to Striding Edge on Helvellyn and Scafell Pike is also worth supporting to ensure that future generations can enjoy these fells without further damaging the fragile ecology.  Again, the Ennerdale project to safeguard the oak forests and the red squirrel population is a fantastic project and surely deserving of support. And Snowdonia is also an area of outstanding importance and beauty.

Is there any way of giving all these projects some funding? Anyway voting finishes tomorrow so cast your vote asap and give one of these projects the chance to win up to 30,000 Euros in funding.

For further information on the EOCA please click here.
viewing the Scafell range from Wetherlam summit

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Barf, Lord's Seat, Broom Fell, Graystones 5th March 2011

We managed to get back to the Lake District for some walking on the weekend of the 5th and 6th March. Seeing as it was the first Lake District walk of the season I thought we would start off with something not too strenuous.

Barf from the road

The Whinlatter Fells looked perfect, not too high, with woodland paths giving way to grassy slopes. How wrong we were. There was some kind of motorcross event happening and as a result some of the forest paths were closed to walkers, including our chosen route.

looking back across the Vale of Keswick
Not to worry I said to Claire, we can try that route up Barf via The Bishop, it's in my Wainwright guide. If i had read the note at the bottom of the page "Not a walk. A very stiff scramble, suitable only for people overflowing with animal strength and vigour." - we would have taken a different path - it was a killer! This was no walk it was full on fell scrambling and with more than a few hair raising moments.

looking back down our "path" up

Each time we reached the end of a section of the "walk" I thought it must get easier, but no - the ascent was full-on right up to the summit!

not looking any easier...

We made it up to the summit of Barf in about 45 minutes, and we certainly looked back on it as an achievement, as most of the going was near vertical. The views on the day were great though. Barf provided some great views of Skiddaw across Bassenthwaite Lake, as well as views down the Vale of Keswick.

Skiddaw over Bassenthwaite Lake from Barf summit
And the hard work was rewarded with an easy walk along the tops to Lord's Seat. As it had been cold and dry the boggy sections were fairly frozen and dry so caused no trouble to us.

Lord's Seat summit
 From Lord's Seat we were rewarded with views of Whinlatter and the fells around Grasmoor. Hazy conditions meant we couldn't really see north to the Solway Firth.

Broom Fell summit cairn
It was another easy walk over to Broom Fell - no need for maps or directions, just head for the substantial cairn in the distance. again it was easy going, no bad ground, just a pleasant walk across grassland. Broom fell gave us some good views of the Back o' Skiddaw and provided the perfect location for our lunch, spicy veg pasties from Kewsick, perfect.

The final fell of the day, Graystones was further than it looked and was a bit tougher than the previous two - still a walk in the park compared to our ascent of Barf.

looking south-westwards on the way to the summit of Graystones

There were some great views over towards Cockermouth and the last two Wainwrights of the North Western fells Ling Fell and Sale Fell as well as a view back to the North Western Fells from the edge of the plantation.

If the last few walks across the ridges made us almost forget that we were high up, the walk back down to Scawgill Bridge reminded us very quickly of that fact - it was nothing compared to the scramble up Barf but it wasn't easy by any means.

looking down from Graystones
The day ended with a walk along the Whinlatter Pass and forest road taking us back to the car, and the pubs of Keswick.

a look back to Graystones

Monday, 7 March 2011

Fantastic Lakes Weekend

Just a quick post to say I had a fabulous weekend in the Lake District with Claire. Staying in Keswick, we arrived Friday night in time for a round of the pubs on the Market Square, a walk around some of the Whinlatter Fells on Saturday, and a walk on the Helvellyn range Sunday. Details coming soon, but to keep you happy here's a picture of the weekend haul of Lakeland ales...

Friday, 4 March 2011

Five Walks To Look Forward To

With the worst of the Winter weather hopefully behind us, here are five of the walks I aim to do over the coming months - feel free to join me....

Nine Standards Rigg
I pass this fell with each journey across the A66 and there is something about it that draws your attention. The pictures of the "nine standards" on the summit of the fell look stunning so this is one I want to do as soon as posible - possibly following Wainwright's footsteps with a visit to the chippy in Kirkby Stephen....

Yorkshire Three Peaks 
I loved doing this last year but it would be nice to do it without having spent a week in the Lakes beforehand. I bet it's a doddle with a fresh pair of legs, it is only 26 miles after all... I an tempted to start with Ingleborough to get those nasty steps out of the way first, although I think whichever way you tackle it, the last five miles will seem like twice the distance. Hopefully my brother-in-law Ian will be joining me on this one - his reward for giving up smoking!

Helvellyn via Striding Edge 
It's the one that I get asked about every other time I stop to talk to someone about Lake District walks. "What, you've never done Helvellyn?" is the standard question - seems like I'm not even a novice let alone a beginner until I have tackled this one! i think it's one to do outside the regular Summer hols, unless I want to feel like I'm part of a guided tour...

High Cup Nick
Another one visible from the A66, this looks stunning in picture, so it's a must really. Of course being up on High Cup Nick may well mean a walk to Dufton Fell and pushing onto the big bad boy that is Cross Fell. Having said that I just read about a great walk from Cow Green reservoir to High Cup Nick so that would be a great reason to revisit Cow Green and Cauldron Snout, hmm decisions decisions!

Lyke Wake Walk
Until I do this one Claire will always have one up on me! I am planning this one for early Summer together with Claire's colleagues and anyone else who cares to join. having done it the once they want to do it in reverse this time. I don't mind, it's all a challenge to me.

the vast landscapes around the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk