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

Coast to Coast day 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite

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This day didn’t start too well – we walked out out of The Shepherd’s Arms and immediately turned left – not a good idea (the actual route is left on the main road a few metres further up from the Shepherd’s Arms). After about 15 minutes we realised something was wrong, and backtracked back to Ennerdale Bridge with me feeling like a bit of a goose since I’m supposed to be an experienced walker…

The walk then recommenced along the official route that follows a road along to the banks of Ennerdale Water. At this point it was time for sunscreen and hats as the weather was excellent. The path then follows the southern side of Ennerdale Water, with a few steep sections where it leaves the banks and climbs higher, before entering a very nice wooded section and eventually reaching the end of Ennerdale Water and joining the vehicular track up to Black Sail Youth Hostel.

I decided to take the alternative route which leaves the vehicular track not long after it is joined and climbs very steeply north up to Red Pike. From here it was a magnificent ridge walk along to High Stile and High Crag, with great views in all directions, particularly down into Buttermere, across to Grasmoor on the other side of the lake, south-east towards Haystacks and south to Pillar. After High Crag there is a steep descent to Scarth Gap Pass and then unfortunately a steep ascent to make up most of the lost height before reaching Haystacks and then, shortly thereafter, the beautiful Innominate Tarn. The path then wends its way to join an old tramway that proceeds in a straight line up and then down to Honister Pass and the Slate Mine visitor centre.

After a quick break here, we continued down by the side of the Honister Pass road, before eventually leaving the road at Seatoller and continuing along a footpath into Rosthwaite.

(Total distance approx. 14.5 miles)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Fellwalking – Fairfield

Summit of Fairfield (Lake District, England)

“It is the north flank that gives Fairfield distinction. In complete contrast to its bland appearance in other directions, a series of rocky buttresses and screeshoots plunge suddenly from the edge of the summit plateau into the head of Deepdale with startling ferocity: it is a dramatic scene that escapes attention on the southern and western approaches.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Commencing at Patterdale, I walked southwards along the A592 until I reached a permitted footpath to the west of the road, following this path until it reached the lovely Brothers Water. The track becomes a public footpath here, skirting the western shore of Brothers Water and continuing southwards before curling to the south-west and crossing Dovedale Beck, thence continuing westish to pass Dove Crag and thereafter to join a footpath traversing the ridge. From here the walk continues north-west over Hart Crag and then turns west briefly before attaining the summit of Fairfield, from which there are great views in all directions.

After a lunch stop I continued on north and then north east along the ridge line that traverses St Sunday Crag and then drops down into Patterdale. The first section is very steep and a little tricky in places, before levelling out somewhat. As Wainwright points out, the view of Fairfield from this direction is very different from the southern and western approaches, looking most impressive with its series of rocky buttresses. The views down to Ullswater are also fantastic.

All in all, a great day’s outing – but a fairly demanding walk that took me over 6 hours.

My rating: A+
Map: OL5 – The English Lakes: North Eastern area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Eastern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book One (A Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells)

Dovedale Beck View from summit of Fairfield Looking south-west towards St Sunday Crag and Fairfield Looking down to Ullswater

UPDATE: I did this walk again in 2012; this time I had a car and so parked at the National Trust car park at Cow Bridge. I’ve indicated this as the start position on the map of starting locations.

Fellwalking – Pillar (Lake District, England)

Descending from Pillar into Mosedale

“…Pillar, a fine bold mountain overtopping all else around and forming a high barrier between the valleys of Ennerdale and Mosedale”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

My first attempt at climbing Pillar ended without attaining the summit. The weather on that day was particularly bad – I ascended initially via the Dorehead screes (not a good idea). The wind was blowing over the ridge that leads north-west from Dore Head to Red Pike with brute strength, at one point a strong gust from the west blew my legs under me to the east, and I hit the deck. It was also raining – the wind driving the rain into my jacket and through the neck and arm holes so by the time I had reached Little Scoat Fell and started the final ascent to the east, I was cold and wet. At this point, with visibility down to less than 10 metres, I decided discretion was the better part of valour – leaving the summit to another day I descended down the rough footpath that cuts between Green and Elliptical crags, back into Mosedale and a very welcome late lunch at the Wasdale Head Inn.

I eventually climbed Pillar a few years later. As it happens, the weather was still fairly ordinary on the day (hence the lack of decent photos), but nowhere near as bad as the first time. The route we followed starts at Wasdale Head, following the bridleway that pushes north into Mosedale to the east of Mosedale Beck. After a junction with a path that continues northwards and forms the return of this route (the Wind Gap route – fairly indistinct last time I was there), the bridleway slowly curves to the north east crossing Gatherstone Beck and becoming the Black Sail Pass, eventually attaining the east ridge and a track junction. From here the path proceeds westwards, climbing for most of the way before finally reaching the summit.

The descent proceeds steeply south-west into Wind Gap before turning south east onto the screes and then a rough footpath that drops down into Mosedale and ultimately joins the bridleway from the start of the walk that leads back to Wasdale Head.

My rating: A
Maps: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000), the very start of the walk also requires OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western area
Wainwright’s guides: Book seven, The Western Fells

Fellwalking – Newlands Horseshoe (Lake District, England)

Looking into Newlands Valley from Dale Head

“The traverse of the fells on either side of Newlands is a joyful exercise of sustained exhilaration with views both beautiful and dramatic every step of the way. Nowhere is the walking difficult; there are no hazards and a steady pace can be maintained along the tops. I rank the Newlands Horseshoe among the best”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

And for what it’s worth, I rank this amongst the best walks in Lakeland as well. The walk starts at the accurately named Little Town, there’s a small carpark just south of the village at Chapel Bridge. From the car park walk back up to the village and then west on to the bridleway that climbs uphill to join a path between Cat Bells to the north (left) and Maiden Moor to the south (right). Take the path south to Maiden Moor and continue along the ridge almost due south to High Spy, enjoying the great views into the Newlands Valley and Derwent Water and Borrowdale.

From High Spy the track continues southwards, descending to Dalehead tarn; when I was last there the actual path passed to the right of the tarn (the map shows the right of way to the left of the tarn) before a steep uphill pull westwards to the summit of Dale Head. From Dale Head continue westwards along Hindscarth Edge before turning north for the final climb up to Hindscarth. From here, the track descends along an attractive spur to Scope End before executing a u-turn and proceeding south to Goldscope Lead Mine and then turning back north along a footpath back to the start point at Chapel Bridge. The Swinside Inn, up the road to the north, provides an excellent spot for a post-walk beer.

A longer alternative, recommended by Wainwright in his Favourite Lakeland Mountains book, is to start at Hawes End, on the west bank of Derwent Water. From here you need to head due south up the spur to Cat Bells. Descending from Cat Bells into the col, you can pick up the track described above. On the return, you would need to continue through Little Town and pick up the footpath that continues on to Skelgill and then the road back to Hawes End.

My rating: A+
Maps: 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)

Maiden Moor on the way to High Spy Summit cairn - Dale Head Spur from Hindscarth to Scope End Newlands Valley - looking towards Dale Head