" " Lake District Trails and Ales

Thursday, 22 March 2012

A 50km South Lake District circular walk, March 23rd -25th 2012

This was a fantastic 50km circular walk over 2 1/2 days in the South Lakes Area (including Lowick Green, Coniston - the Old Man and Dow Crag, Walna scar road, Seathwaite, Broughton in Furness and back to Lowick Green) to celebrate my 50th birthday with a small group of long time friends.  The plan was to meet at Swangs Cottage on the Thursday night, with folks coming in from all directions. Z first drove to me in Harpenden and we drove up together. Ged flew into Manchester from Paris and we picked him up on the way, after a quick detour for a pint on the airport road. Nick and Spin got the train from London to Oxenholme and a taxi from there. Impressively Nick flew in from Rio de Janiro for the weekend arriving the previous day! Our evening meal and quite a few bevvies were had in the Royal Oak, Sparkbridge - just down the hill from Swangs. Sleeping arrangements had been made, but were about to be changed (not for the only time) due to them being a little too intimate for some.

Day 1

The boys getting ready for the off
Earlyish Friday morning we arose and congregated back down at the Royal Oak for a hearty full english breakfast. At this point our final walker, Gorky, arrived and soon (before 10am) we were on our way after a final check on iphones and blackberries for last minute messages from well wishers. We had been in training (drinking training that is) for this for months, even years, and boy was it needed with 6 thirsty boys and at least 10 pubs to hit in 2 and a bit days.

One of the tarns on Lowick Common with
Lowick Beacon in the background

The aim of the morning was to walk from Swangs Cottage, over Lowick Common and then over Blawith Beacon and part way along the edge of Coniston Water, stopping off for lunch in Torver at the Church Inn. A mere 15.6km start to the day.  The weather was kind - warm and sunny. What more could we ask for.  Having set off together we were soon (not for the last time!) spreading out into a leading and following pack (of one).

A well wisher looks on over Blaiwth Common
We were already falling behind schedule, but fortunately the Church Inn serves food until 3pm, and more importantly beer all day. After 3 pints, steak sandwiches and chips, none of us really wanted to leave, but we had accommodation booked in Coniston, and there was a nice little route past the Banishead quarry waterfall and down the Walna scar road to the wonderful Sun hotel for our first (and not last!) pint of the stunning Loweswater Gold from Cumbrian Legendary Ales. Due to running later than expected Gorky headed straight for the last bus, as he was only joining us the first day. Needless to say we found out later that the bus had been cancelled! We stayed overnight in Coniston and after another hearty full english breakfast were ready for our stroll to Broughton in Furness, over the Old Man and Dow Crag via Seathwaite.

Day 2

It was shorts weather. Fantastic. Off we set up the Coppermines Road until we hit the bridge and crossed over the stream to head directly towards the Old Man. Before long we were back on the main drag (joining the route from the car park), but even with the good weather there weren't too many people heading up. We stopped by Angle tarn for a quick break and then headed up the steeper and narrower route to the top.  At this point yesterday's walk started to have an impact and it was with some relief that the top was reached, but spirits were high, as it was all downhill from here!

Yesterday's walk started to catch up
with some
We crossed over the top of Dow Crag and walked along the ridge until we hit the Walna Scar road and then it was a long descent down into Seathwaite and the beautiful Duddon Valley.  At this point fatigue really started to kick in and the group spread out...a lot. 

View along Dow Crag

Ged decided to go on ahead in an advance party of one in case the pub shut, but the rest of us waited...and waited..and waited....until, as one unit, we finally made it to the Newfield Inn. The highlight of the day for Z was stopping and filling his water bottle from a stream which gave him that extra energy for the final push to the pub.  He must have been knackered as he had 2 pints of water before starting on the customary lager. There was plenty more walking still to be done...and once again we were behind schedule.

A lonely figure in the distance
 Z decided to call it a day and called a taxi to take him to Broughton. The rest of us supped up and as it approached 4 o'clock set off for Broughton Mills, via Park Head Road for another well earned pint.

Following this we then set off for the final part of the day, just reaching the edge of Broughton-in-Furness as darkness descended. We stayed (well some of us did) in the Black Cock Inn. We ate there and had a few beers and then headed over to the Manor Arms (where Z decided to sleep) for a nigtcap or two.

Day 3 - And then there were two....

Another stunning day and the final part of the circular walk was to get back to Swangs Cottage in Lowick Green for lunch time. Z had already decided to do this bit by taxi, but Nick and Spin had their return train to catch. So they dropped Z off on the way to Oxenholme, where he awaited his lift back down south. Meanwhile Ged and I ploughed on. After a couple of hours, not seeing anyone, we passed by Blawith Knott and could soon see Lowick church in the distance, knowing full well the Red Lion was close by for a last well earned couple of pints.

After this it was only a short stroll back to Swangs. Mission accomplished. What a fantastic walk, all the better for the fantastic weather we had and of course the company.  Same again, or something similar, next year.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Harter Fell, August 30th 2010

Harter Fell is (or was) the last fell that we can see from our cottage that we hadn't yet climbed, so this was the one we wanted to "bag" for some time.  It sits majestically in the distance, appearing like the top of pyramid, nestled behind the Old Man Range and Caw. We drove from Lowick towards Ulpha and then cut across Birker Fell into Eskdale until we reached the Woolpack Inn.  There is parking at the Woolpack Inn, but we decided to go on a little further to a parking area opposite Wha House Farm. From there we walked down the road in the direction of Hardkott pass, watching the cars having fun negotiating the ascent and descent.  After a couple of hundred metres there is a footpath, by the stream that leads away from the road.

This eventually turns left and follows the base of the Harter fell until it reaches a footpath that doubles back and takes you up the fell itself. It is possible to reach the Roman ruins along this original path, but we decided to head directly up.

The climb is fairly easy going as there is a good path, however it can get boggy as you approach the path that heads off to left to the summit. I read in a book somewhere that your natural instict is to keep following the path you are on over the pass and into the Dunnerdale valley. Don't! It is pretty obvious that you need to take the path to the left to the highest point as the  footpath approaches a wall with a stream.  The path to the summit is quite a bit steeper, but not too challenging.  It is well worth it as the views from the top are superb in all directions.  There is a excellent perspective of Scafell and Scafell Pike and back down the beautiful Eskdale Valley.

There is the added bonus of a couple of rock mounds at the top which add an extra bit of fun to climb. 

 We decended back down the same path until we met the wall and stream again.

At this point we crossed over the wall and took the path back to Penny Hill farm to make this a circular walk.  From the farm its a short walk on a narrow lane back to the main road and a pint in the Woolpack Arms.
We drove back over Hardknott Pass, as the sun was setting and then back through Little Langdale and Coniston to get home. Another fabulous day.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Swinside Stone Circle and Stickle Pike, June 3rd 2010

Another week with the boys in the Lakes. In the aftermath of the shootings in Cumbria yesterday it is unbelievable to think that such a thing could happen in a part of the Lakes that is so quiet. Today we decided we had to visit the Swinside Stone circle as we had never been before. A friend, Ged, was taken there by Derry Brabbs (one of the country's finest landscape photographers and who did the photography for Fellwalking with Wainwright) on a photgraphic workshop, and he recommended it.  So with map in hand we headed off to a small lay by, large enough for a couple of cars, at the start of the path next to Cragg Hall.

Unless you drive over Thwaite Fell southwards you can't actually see the stone cirle from the car.  Apparently its possible to do a circular walk by heading up towards Fenwick, but we decided on the direct assualt.  The walk is very easy going on a path, passing through a field of cows, and over a couple of cattle grids. After a couple of kilometres the circle becomes visible, but it is only when you get up close, that it becomes really impressive. We have been to the Birkrigg Stone Circle many times, but this is much bigger. With views over fells rising to Black Combe its a great place to be on a warm and sunny day.
The cattle grids help to focus the mind. As you can see it requires intense concentration. Once back at the car we headed off for another quick ascent to justify stopping off at a watering hole on the way back to the cottage. 

We decided we would do Stickle Pike in the beautiful and quiet Dunnderdale valley. Driving up the valley from Broughton Mills we stopped off at the top of the pass, just past the start of the path to Seathwaite (and Caw).  Crossing the road we started our ascent, the three of us with Jess our border collie.  There is a small tarn half way up so we stopped for a short while. As usual Jess sloped off over the top of a rocky crag out of view.  The wind was blowing quite hard but the next thing we heard were some really loud shrieks, obviously from Jess. With the wind we couldn't tell where they were coming from so we all started shouting his name. After about 30 seconds the squealing stopped and about 30 seconds later Jess repeared on the path on the far side of the tarn, limping really badly. We thought that was it, so we rested for about 30 mins until his leg appeared slightly better. There was no visible damage. To this day we do not know what happened. He either fell off a cliff face, got trapped in some rock or got a good hiding from some sheep if he was annoying them. We carried on and soon reached the top, with Jess walking much better.  The views from the top are great in all direction on a clear day.  We headed back to the car and to the Manor Arms in Broughton for our well deserved refreshments, with a bag of Pork Scratchings for Jess.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Huntingstile Crag and Dow Bank, Elterwater, February 20th 2010

Having been in the Langdale valley a couple of days earlier and driving back on the Elterwater road I noticed how remarkably quiet it was in and around Elterwater given it was the school holidays. So with that factored in and the Britinnia Inn in Elterwater to replenish any lost fluid after a walk, I decided we should go for a stroll in this area. Our border collie had been to the hairdressers in the morning so we were off to a late start.We parked on the verge of the main road and headed away from Elterwater towards Grasmere. From here you can see Huntingstile Crag and Down Bank, and a nice little ridge walk which can be reached for very little effort. This walk doesn't seem to be on any obvious walking site. In fact we only saw two other groups of people en route. I'm sure that's very different in the summer.

Within a few minutes we were gaining height, having walked across a fairly flat stretch of green in the valley.  From the top of Huntingstile Crag you get views of Grasmere, Loughrigg, Helm Crag, Helvellyn as well as as a glimpse of the Langdale Valley.  Even at this height of only a couple of hundred metres we were in the snow. There was nothing in the valley.  Snow was visible on the peaks in the Langdales also.  From this first cairn there is a pretty obvious route past a small tarn to a couple more peaks which are slightly higher.  You can also see how easy it would be to carry on walking beyond Down Bank to Swirl How. The path is obvious and you stay high up all the way. 

After a couple of snowball fights we headed off Down Bank in a northerly direction and then gradually headed back down into Elterwater on a path that made the water circular. This time cutting across the front of the fells back into the valley. The walk was  about an hour and half in total. Upon our return we headed to the Brittania Inn for a pint from the local Tirrel Brewery. The main bar area is small but cosy. I doubt you fit in as easily on a summer's day as Elterwater is such a popular area.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Microbreweries in Cumbria

Abraham Thompson

Barngates Brewery
Bitter End Brewery
Coniston Brewing Company
Dent Brewery
Derwent Brewery
Foxfield Brewery
Great Gable Brewing Co.
Hawkshead Brewery
Hesket Newmarket Brewery
Jennings Brewery
Kirby Lonsdale
Loweswater Brewery
Strands Hotel - Nether Wasdale
Tirril Brewery
Ulverston Brewing Company
Watermill Ings Brewery
Whitehaven Brewing Company
Yates Brewery

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Blawith Knott, New Years Day - 2010

With there being so much snow and ice this Christmas in the Lakes for our traditional new year's day walk we decided to stay low and go for an old favourite. The Western Blawith Fells (Blawith Knott and Tottlebank Height) are not particularly challenging, but for very little effort you get fantastic views of all of South Lakeland, Black Combe, Great Burney, the Duddon Valley and the coast. Best of all, this beautiful part of the lakes  is pretty much off the main tourist trail (see our trips up Caw as an example).

You can walk for miles and miles on the Blawith fells, in fact all the way to Coniston (even via The Beacon which can be a day out in itself), and somedays not see anybody else at all on the trails.

There are parking places near the foot of Blawith Knott. A small stream coincides with the start of a path, but the ascent is obvious due to tyre tracks left by illegally ridden motorbikes on the fells.

If you see any motorcyclists on the fells, point out to them that they appear to have veered off the road, wait for them to next fall off and then walk all over them, apologising for inadvertantly straying from the path you should have been on.

Looking back from here you get a fantastic view of Black Combe and White Combe. After a 10 minute climb you are soon at the top of the first fell. The path then descends and continues towards the second fell, passing a small tarn (Lang tarn) on the way. The tarn was frozen solid and a great place to have a bit of a mess around with our border collie and the boys. The tarn is small and shallow so is a safe place for a bit of ice skating.

From there, a few footpaths that take you to the top of Tottlebank Height, or you can continue along the main footpath and continue right round the fell until you reach a farm, where you join a track that takes you all the way back to the start. This is a very easy but very enjoyable circular walk. You get fantastic sweeping views as you are on the south west edge of the mountain ranges.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Caw, October 26th 2009

Having done Caw myself a few weeks earlier, I was determined to take the rest of the family (including dog) up.  One of the  reasons is that we can see Caw from our cottage along with Coniston Old Man, Dow Crag, The Beacon, Blawith Knott, Tottlebank Height and Harter Fell and we obviously have to bag all of these. In fact its a challenge set for anyone who stays there over the course of a week.

We set off on the path that is signposted Seathwaite and The Newfield Inn (where we saw our Border Collie pup advertised) on the road from Broughton Mills to Seathwaite. The path starts just after a cattle grid and gate across the road under Stickle Pike. This is a very easy walk until you hit Caw itself where it rises fairly steeply. However, more fun can be had by taking a right path after about 1km up and over the tops of the fells (Broadslack) on the right hand side as you walk towards Caw (which isn't itself yet in view).  There are a couple of disused mines along the route, with sealed entrances to caves.

As you look back you get a good view of Stickle Pike and a very tempting path that rises to the top. After the first set of fells on the right hand side of the path Caw suddenly comes into view as does the Seathwaite valley. We walked up Long Mire, which is almost moor like until we hit an easy to see path up Caw.  The path near the top is less obvious, but all routes upwards lead to the top.

I have done this walk twice this year and only seen 4 people in total.  From the top of Caw you get fantastic views all around - Seathwaite, Harter Fell, Walna Scar, Conistion and back down the Crake Valley. You can see our cottage from the top. Leaving the top to the east, there is another fairly prominent pike visible. We headed for this and from the top took an off piste route down back to join Long Mire in a direction back towards the original path we came on.

For us Broughton-in-Furness is on the way back, so inevitably we stopped off for a well earned refreshment.  The only problem with Broughton, which is a great village, is which of the three excellent pubs to go to.  Today we stopped of at the Manor Arms, which looks out directly onto the square, for a couple of pints of Yates and some pork scratchings.