Sunday, 29 June 2014

Little Mell Fell: The Lake District Lowlands

I guess as part of attempting to tackle ALL the Wainwrights, you have to take the rough with the smooth. Or in this case, the smooth and rounded instead of the rough and craggy.

Some of these "minor" fells are also valuable for a number of reasons - they are easily done in a shorter amount of time, and a good number of them lie on or close to our route when headed home from the Lakes. Great Mell Fell, Souther Fell, High Rigg, Latrigg are all fells we can easily head up on the way home and one other obvious addition to this list is Little Mell Fell.

True, a walk up Little Mell Fell cannot compare with the thrills of a high ridge walk, an ascent of a higher fell, or a grand day out. It is lowly, rounded, grassy and isolated from other fells.

But for me it is the gateway to the Lakes, the first bump in the landscape that tells you that you are entering Lakeland. It is also a nice quiet corner of the Lakes and so the lanes between the A66 and the shores of Ullwater provide an ideal little network of routes for cyclists to avoid the busier roads.

Our tour of Little Mell Fell was completed in under one hour - ascent, enjoy the view, and descent. There's no description of the route needed either. Park at the bottom, head upwards on the grassy slope until you reach the trig point, then head back down.

I did really enjoy the landscape from here. The great hulk of Blencathra over to the north, the fellow minor fells of Great Mell Fell and Gowbarrow Fell nearby, Ullswater just beyond and panoramic views of the Lake District to the west and the Eden Valley over to the east.

All in all an easy and fun little walk that allows us to get just that little piece more of Lakeland before heading home.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Walk To Work on the Coast To Coast

I recently heard of a walk to work week initiative, and this gave me the perfect excuse to trek a section of the coast to coast, since my office is very close to the route!

It was a simple enough walk from Richmond to Colburn, a distance of about 4 miles each way. Whilst this section of the C2C is not as spectacular as some of the others, it is pretty and has a charm of its own.

Leaving Richmond Station along the old railway path, you catch glimpses of Easby Abbey through the trees. Shortly after the C2C leaves the rail path and climbs through fields to a patch of woodland on the banks of the river Swale.

This is a lovely little woodland walk and at this time of year the scent of wild garlic was heavy in the air.

As you climb out of the woods and back into fields and farmland there are occasional glimpses across valleys deep into the Yorkshire countryside. Soon enough I reached the charming village of old Colburn and the end of my walk, only to enjoy the same route in reverse at the end of the day.

Who would have imagined that the commute to work could be so good!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Fairfield Horseshoe

I gaze upon the Fairfield Horseshoe every time we stop off in Ambleside. As you look northwards from the town, the Fairfield group of fells are displayed in their full glory, inviting you to take on the circular challenge.
A few years ago, myself and crag rat Rainer made a tentative venture onto these fells completing a half-circuit. We started off with a steep pull up the scree slopes of Fairfield before working our way back down along the eastern flank.

This time around with a full day of walking ahead of us, an excellent weather forecast and a table booked at Zeffirellis for the evening, conditions seemed perfect to tackle this walk. We opted for an anti-clockwise route, setting off from Ambleside and starting with Low Pike. At this point we had glorious sunshine, with just the hint of a breeze to keep us fresh.

As we made our way up the slopes of Low Pike, the wind gradually picked up, but we still enjoyed its cooling effect and it helped us on our climb. Despite its name, as it's name suggests, this is not the highest of fells, and although easily reached, it is quite a sharp pull up, as you get onto the main ridge of this wonderful circuit.

From here navigation is made very simple by a dry stone wall that traces the route for the next few miles. This does restrict views somewhat looking forward, but with an increasing wind, it made for welcome shelter.

Clouds started rolling in, and it seemed that the weather forecast might have omitted some of the facts! The walk up from Low to High Pike is very impressive, with the next goal in clear sight as you gain altitude.

From here, much of the hard work has been done for now, as the path and accompanying wall march onwards over the summit of Dove Crag - which was the subject of the first ever chapter Wainwright wrote for his Pictorial Guides.

Somewhere along here, our faithful companion and wind shelter slowly dwindled away, leaving us exposed to the elements. The next fell on the horseshoe, Hart Crag is a short walk away, but by this time the clouds were rolling in. From here you have  choice to either continue towards Fairfield, or an alternative would be to head eastwards to Hartsop Above How and then down towards Brothers Water.

We pressed on towards Fairfield, at this point the winds were getting much stronger and we felt a few drops of rain - what happened to the weather forecast we were promised?!?! Conditions on the vast Fairfield summit platform were pretty bad so the camera didn't come out much except to take this shot down back into the valley.

We had planned on stopping for lunch, but after visiting the summit cairns and shelters we decided it would be better to head for lower ground, so on we marched onwards on the return leg of the horseshoe.

This is a very spectacular ridge and it's not hard to see why it is so popular, but today things were very quiet up here with the howling winds, and its fair to say we were glad it was a wide ridge rather than a narrow crest of rock!

Onwards and over Great Rigg and Heron Pike and there was no let-up, so not much of a chance to stop and take in the views.

Even on lowly Nab Scar we still had a howling gale to contend with, but we did manage to find a spot of shelter for lunch.

Soon enough afterwards, we were back down off the higher ground on the valley floor, where we stopped at the very picturesque tea shop at Rydal Hall for a warming cup of coffee.

The walk back to Ambleside route is a really nice lower level walk, and the perfect end to a spectacular if at times a rough day on the fells.