Fellwalking: Rannerdale Knotts/ Whiteless Pike/ Wandope/ Grasmoor

This was a very enjoyable circuit walk in the North Western Fells of the Lake District, taking in Rannerdale Knotts, Whiteless Pike, Wandope & Grasmoor.

I started at the small car park off the B5289 where the footpath down from Grasmoor over Lad Hows meets the road. I then walked down the road (or the grassy if somewhat muddy path beside the road) to the starting point of the track up to Rannerdale Knotts (starting just before Hause Point)

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The path soon starts climbing steeply and it’s not too long before the ridge line is achieved.

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From which there are great views of Buttermere and Crummock Water.

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After descending from the ridge the path joins with another footpath that leads up to Whiteless Pike (at this point you could return via a footpath that follows Squat Beck for a short but enjoyable ramble).

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The weather was fantastic so the views just kept getting better.

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Whiteless Pike was a good place to stop for the rest…

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…before the walk along Whiteless Edge to Wandope.

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From here there a good views accross to Whiteside and up to Crag Hill.

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If you have the time and inclination you could take a detour to Crag Hill, but I took the path west to Grasmoor…

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…resting and taking in the views from the summit before returning via the path south and then west over Lad Hows and back to my car.

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All in all a great day out. Buttermere is close by and a great spot for a post walk beer.

Time: Around 5.25 hours
Grade: Moderate day walk
My rating: A+
Map: The English Lakes: North Western Area (OS Explorer Map Series)
Wainwright Guide: The North Western Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book Six (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells): 6
Access: The walk starts at a small car-parking area just off the B5289. Google street view now covers this area, here’s a view of the parking area on the right. There’s also another carpark just before this one – either one will work.

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

View after ascending Red Gill on the way to Grasmoor
View after ascending Red Gill on the way to Grasmoor

“I love the mountains of Lakeland. They have been good friends to me over a long life, always there when wanted, always reliable, always welcoming. I have often sung their praises in an attempt to repay the debt I feel I owe them.”

So said Alfred Wainwright in the introduction to his book “Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains” an illustrated book with photos by Derry Brabbs. In the book he describes his favourite 20 (at least at the time) lakeland peaks. It’s not a guidebook, rather it provides some evocative text and photos for each of the mountains along with suggestions for various ascent routes.

The twenty peaks are as follows:

1. Blencathra

2. Bowfell

3. Coniston Old Man

4. Crinkle Crags

5. Dale Head

6. Eel Crag

7. Fairfield

8. Glaramara

9. Grasmoor

10. Great Gable

11. Haystacks

12. Helvellyn

13. High Stile

14. High Street

15. Hopegill Head

16. Langdale Pikes

17. Pillar

18. Scafell

19. Scafell Pike

20. Skiddaw

Walks to all of these can be highly recommended for any keen walker; do all 20 and you will a gain a great overview of, as well as probably a great love for, the Lake District, certainly one of my favourite corners of the world.

Fellwalking: Skiddaw

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“Skiddaw is the fourth highest peak in Lakeland and geographically the most important. Completely isolated by the Vale of Keswick and surrounded by lesser supporters which form a close-knit family group, it rises proudly in their midst like an old hen with a brood of chicks.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Yet another walk from the archives – and this is the last of my brief descriptions of ascents of Wainwight’s favourite 20 lakeland peaks. An appealing walk close to Keswick, for this walk I used the Pathfinder “More Lake District Walks” guidebook (note: the Pathfinder Lake District walk guides have been completely re-written since this post was first published and this route is now in the new guide The High Fells of Lakeland (Pathfinder Guides)).

The walk commences at a car park at the end of the Gale Road from Applethwaite. It follows a well worn path north-westwards that in contrast to most ascents, starts steeply and then eases off.

The summit of Skiddaw is labelled Skiddaw Man on the OL map and is marked with an ordnance survey marker and a view indicator. After visiting the summit you can return via the same route or alternatively descend the screes towards Carl Side and then follow the path to Millbeck (the Allerdale Ramble). The latter route requires a 2 mile walk along the road back to the car park.

My rating: A
Map: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Northern Fells (Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells): Book 5

Fellwalking: Coniston Old Man

View from summit of Coniston Old Man

“I once wrote, in a spasm of exuberance, that the Old Man is to Coniston as the Matterhorn is to Zermatt, a gross exaggeration of course. Yet there is the same affinity between mountain and village: one without the other is unthinkable, and both are integral to the public’s image.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Haven’t been able to get out recently, so yet another walk from the archives – this one I did several years ago. It’s an enjoyable day walk that takes in the summit of Coniston Old Man and finishes with a pleasant stroll on the western shores of Coniston Water.

For this walk I used the Pathfinder “Lake District Walks” guidebook. Commencing in the village of Coniston, the path soon starts climbing the eastern flank of The Old Man getting steadily steeper as it approaches the summit and passing considerable evidence of the mountain’s industrial history – particularly slate mining. While somewhat aesthetically unappealing, the old quarries are to me an important part of the history of the area and do add some interest to the walk.

After the summit, the path drops down and passes Goat’s Water before descending steadily towards Torver.  From here the way proceeds through some woods to Coniston Water, and thence back to Consiton.

My rating: A
Map: OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Wainwright Anniversary: The Southern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): BOOK FOUR (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells)

Fellwalking: High Stile

Red Pike from High Stile

“High Stile is the pivot, the central point and the loftiest of a closely knit trinity of peaks on an elevated ridge between Buttermere and Ennerdale … The rewards of a visit to High Stile more than compensate for the effort in getting there.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Another walk from the archives … and a magnificent walk it is – a highly recommended Lake District ridge walk centred on the lovely village and lake of Buttermere.

Parking near the church just above Buttermere village we took the bridleway that proceeds south towards Burtness Wood, continuing uphill as we entered the woods on the path that soon starts to climb steeply westwards by the south side of Sourmilk Gill toward Red Pike. After passing Bleaberry Tarn, the path gets steeper and the final pull up to the summit of Red Pike is quite an effort, but worth it for the magnificent views from the ridge, which may extend out to the coast if the weather is kind.

From Red Pike we followed the path south-east to High Stile and then on to High Crag, this section is not particularly difficult and in fine weather it is worth taking your time and savouring the views. North of the ridge are excellent views of Crummock Water, Buttermere and the north-western fells including Grasmoor and Eel Crag. To the east, Fleetwith Pike and the old slate mine tramway. South-eastwards you’ll see Haystacks and beyond Great Gable, and to the south, Pillar.

After High Crag, the path descends rather steeply to meet Scarth Gap Pass. At this path, you can turn north and follow the bridleway downhill to the shore of Buttermere, finishing with a pleasant stroll along a permissive path back through Burtness Wood. Alternatively, if you are feeling energetic, you can continue east up towards Haystacks and then keep following the path as it curls around past Innominate Tarn and Bleaberry Tarn to eventually pick up the path that descends by Warnscale back down towards Buttermere. This way requires a short road bash along the B5289, picking up another bridleway at Gatesgarth Farm that proceeds south-west to join the aforementioned bridleway and then permissive path back to the village of Buttermere.

All-in-all a great walk and one of my personal Lake District top 5 day walks.

My rating: A+
Map: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: Book 7: The Western Fells – Second Edition (Pictorial Guides)

Fellwalking: Eel Crag (Crag Hill)

Summit of Eel Crag (Crag Hill)

“The great feature of the mountain is the north-east flank, steeply descending in a wild confusion of crags and outcrops and runs of scree that repel exploration; the south face, too, is defended by a line of cliffs and only westwards is there a slope of easy gradient”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Another day in the Lakes marred by rather poor weather – not much rain, but not much of a view either due to a very low cloud base, although the sun came out for long enough to give me a bit of sunburn! Notwithstanding this, an enjoyable walk that would be even better on a clear day.

We parked by the south of the narrow road that leads south from Braithwaite, just after a junction with Stoneycroft and took the path westwards along sleet Hause and over Causey Pike, climbing steadily to reach Sail and then across The Scar to Eel Head (Crag Hill on the OS maps).

From the summit you could return the same way, but we decided to drop down to the west and then loop around north-east towards Force Crag mine before taking the faint footpath south by Birkthwaite Beck to the footpath that passes High Moss and Outerside. Alas, the weather had closed in completely at this point and we ended up curving too far to the south-west, climbing the screes to meet the path close to Sail.

After this short detour, we picked up the correct path and headed eastwards past Outerside and then by Stonycroft Gill back to the start. The Swinside Inn is not far down the road and provides a good place to relax afterwards.

My rating: B+
Map: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The North Western Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book Six (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells)

Fellwalking: Bowfell

Summit of Bow Fell (I think...)

“…the majestic peak at the head of the valley, the dominant height on a lofty, encircling skyline, its rocky summit pyramid set on a plinth of grassy slopes. This is Bowfell, unassuming and rather withdrawn from public attention yet a commanding presence.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

It rains a lot in the Lakes – something you have to get used to if you are to enjoy walking in the area. This was (another) one of those days with the rain not letting up for the whole walk, preventing any decent views (or photographs).

Parking in the parking area at the end of the B 5343, we walked towards Stool End and then took the steady climb up The Band, passing White Stones and eventually joining the ridge at Three Tarns to the south-east of Bowfell (Bow Fell on the OLS map). From here its a shortish but steep scramble to the summit.

After a rather miserable lunch break we dropped back to Three Tarns but this time took the path that drops by the side of Hell Gill and then into Oxendale before arriving back at Stool End.

Not the greatest day out due to the weather, but that’s how it goes…

My rating: B (probably weather affected)
Map: OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Wainwright Anniversary: The Southern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition):(A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells): Book 4

UPDATE:

I did this walk again in 2011 and had much better weather.

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Coast to Coast day 5: Patterdale to Shap

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A long day through a lesser visited part of the lakes. The day started with yet another long, slow climb, this time south-east past Angletarn Pikes, Angle Tarn and the Knott, before turning east towards Kidsty Pike.

At this point the landscape was clearly changing to the more rounded hills of Yorkshire. From Kidsty Pike there were good views of High Street, but we didn’t hang around too long as the weather was starting to close in. After Kidsty Pike the path drops fairly steeply to the banks of Haweswater and the path beside Haweswater seemed to go on forever – we also got our first rain of the trip. This cleared in less than an hour though and eventually we reached Brimbank, a village that was originally set up for the navvies working to build Haweswater (which is a reservoir).

The village has been re-developed into modern housing, with a handful of the original houses being retained and renovated and the development was fairly attractive, with a refurbished red phone box sitting on the small village green. There won’t be any labourers living there now however; there were a couple of houses still left selling for 300,000 quid.

Leaving Brimbank we entered another attractive wooded section before navigating numerous fields to reach Shap Abbey for a quick look and then a brief road bash in to Shap. At Shap we received a warm welcome from Mrs Brunskill at Brookfield House and then had an excellent dinner (best so far) at the Greyhound pub. Don’t be fooled by the unprepossessing exterior – it was very large and comfortable inside and clearly very popular.

(Total distance approx. 16 miles)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Coast to Coast day 4: Grasmere to Patterdale

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My favourite day of the walk – one of those great days in the Lakes that makes you want to keep going back. In this case an invigorating ridge walk via Dollywagon Pike and Nethermost Pike to Helvellyn, with tremendous views in all directions, made for a most enjoyable hike.

The weather was great again – a lot of cloud but the cloud base was well above the tops. There was also plenty of sun although the wind was blowing a gale up on the ridge which made it quite cool.

The route starts just up from Grasmere, leaving the A591 not long after passing the pub at Mill Bridge to commence yet another slow and steady climb, this time via Tongue Gill to the attractive Grisedale Tarn. At this point the low-level route starts to descend and generally follows Grisedale Beck into Patterdale, but if you are feeling energetic and have some time, there are some great alternatives.

One alternative is to climb steeply to Fairfield and then descend via St Sunday Crag but as mentioned I chose to visit Helvellyn, requiring a steep but relatively short climb up to Dollywagon Pike and then a walk along the ridge where it was pretty busy as usual. I had lunch protected from the wind by a small shelter (not shown on my OL map) just down from Helvellyn – a quick check of the shelter near the summit of Helvellyn through my telephoto lens showed that it was standing room only, which tends to defeat the object when the wind’s blowing.

After attaining the summit – visiting both the cairn at the highest point (950m) and the official OS trig point to the north-east at 949m, I made a quick visit to Helvellyn Lower Man, then returned and descended via Swirral Edge. I thought about going via Striding Edge, but there was a bit of a traffic jam at the last section where you need to climb down (if you are ascending Helvellyn) from the ridge line – it’s quite steep and people were taking it slowly. I’d done it before anyway, so decided an earlier beer would be preferable.

From Swirral Edge I took the path via Red Tarn to Hole-in-the-Wall and then descended into Patterdale for a beer at the White Lion, before taking up accomodations at Oldwater view Guesthouse. We stayed in the ‘Place Fell’ room – apparently Wainwright’s favourite when he stayed there (called Ullswater View in those days). The proprietor explained that BBC were making a c2c film to follow up on their Wainwright series with Julia Bradbury and that they would be filming there in September. On the wall was a copy of a guestbook page from 1942 with Wainwright’s neat and distinctive signature at the bottom.

A nice meal at the White Lion (which was packed with people, at least a third of which were c2c’ers I recognised) capped off a fantastic day.

(Total distance approx. 8.5 miles – official route)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Coast to Coast day 3: Rosthwaite to Grasmere

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We split the third stage, which officially goes from Rosthwaite to Patterdale, into two as is recommended by pretty much everybody. The full stage covers over 17.5 miles through some pretty demanding terrain and doesn’t really leave much time to enjoy the alternative routes, particularly on the leg from Grasmere to Patterdale.

The walk starts easily enough on a pleasant path by the side of Stonethwaite Beck. After a couple of kilometres the path leaves the beck and starts to climb quite steeply up by the side of Greenup Gill from where there a good views of Eagle Crag, a noted crag for climbers (“A mountain crag featuring some fine, hard routes bristling with character.”) After a tiring climb the path levels out, but only briefly before again climbing past Lining Crag. From here the official path descends by the side of Far Easedale Gill, but we chose to take the alternative route via Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag.

I’d recommend the alternative as providing more variety and not being particularly difficult, indeed we arrived in Grasmere at about 2:30pm, leaving plenty of time for a drink in the Red Lion Inn and an ordinary meal at the Ash Cottage Hotel.

(Total distance approx. 9 miles)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary