All through summer we have watched as the Covid numbers dropped, people started going on holiday and everyone relaxed, thinking it was all over. We had planned two weeks away at the end of September and we waited eagerly anticipating “our turn” to get away. We had chosen two destinations with walking in mind for both, Barnard Castle in County Durham (for the Tees Valley and Yorkshire Dales), and our favourite area of the UK, the Lake District, over consecutive weeks.
Sadly, as autumn came, the dreaded Covid numbers began to rise, and about 3 days before we were due to travel, the Government imposed a number of new restrictions on the North East of England, including County Durham. We looked at all the information and decided that the risk of travelling from home, a low risk area to a high risk area was too great, so with some disappointment and sadness we took the decision to cancel the first week of our holiday. We had never been to the Tees Valley before so this new experience would have to wait.
However our Lakes trip was definitely on. We were due to meet up with friends Tim and Jo who were joining us for the week. They had arrived a day ahead of us and we met up with them in a Keswick cafe on Saturday afternoon. The first thing we noticed was that Keswick’s traditional Saturday open air market was as busy as ever and any thoughts of social distancing had disappeared into the ether.
I had planned a number of walks of varying ease or difficulty, depending on your experience or outlook. Feeling invigorated we selected a circular walk called the Newland Horseshoe for a starter. Not a difficult walk in itself but it features a couple of long steady climbs. Under normal circumstances they would be fairly straightforward, however whilst driving to the start point I missed a turning which would have led us to the car park and the start of the walk. This meant that we ended up in the wrong valley! Narrow, crowded roads meant turning round was impossible. Ever quick to adapt, we parked the car on a nearby lay-by , found a path we could take which would link up with another path which would put us back to our planned route. After an hour or so walking, much of it up hill, I realised that our revised plan would see us finishing in the wrong place and we would be be faced with a steep climb and long detour over the hills to return to the car. So with a heavy heart, we sat down and re-planned the walk, following a route which eventually led to the path alongside Derwentwater which we followed, eventually returning to the car. It was still a lovely walk on a fine day, just not the one we had planned.
After the hilly adventures of our first day, we needed somewhere flat to walk to recover, and a pleasant walk along the Langstrath Valley was the perfect solution. This valley lies at the southern end of Borrowdale and is accessed via a walk along the Stonethwaite Valley from Rosthwaite before the path splits, the left route climbs steeply up to Greenup Edge whilst by contrast, the right flat one crosses Stonethwaite Beck and on into the Langstrath Valley. The weather was dull and overcast, cloud settled on the hilltops but the rain stayed away and we had a very pleasant walk along the valley, either side of the beck.
Top: Views of the Langstrath Valley from Stonethwaite; 2 and 3: Langstrath Beck; Bottom: The first view of the Langstrath Valley with the lower slopes of Stonethwaite Fell on the right.
Top: Blea Rock looking down over the Langstrath Valley; Bottom: Looking back down the valley.
Above: Three views from the return path along Langstrath Beck. The sun did try to make an appearance as the images illustrate.
Back to the challenging walks once again and adjacent to the Newlands Horseshoe, which we missed out on, we decided to tackle the Coledale Horseshoe, a walk which starts from nearby Braithwaite. The village is about 5 miles from Keswick and sits at the bottom of a steep hill, so invariably, any walk leaving from here is uphill!
The first major summit on the walk is Grisedale Pike and rest assured, there is very little flat ground between the start in Braithwaite and the top! It was a long climb up and we paused midway for coffee, and the caffeine rush that would power Lyn to the summit! Once on top we rested a while to take in the views all around, a fitting reward for the hard effort of the climb.
Top: Grisedale Pike from the bottom!; 2: Lyn pauses for a breather and coffee half way up; 3: Still a bit to do; 4: Nearly there, me just short of the summit of Grisedale Pike with Tim and Jo behind me. 5: Made it!! Lyn and me with Tim and Jo on top of Grisedale Pike. Bottom: Panorama shot of the view from the top of Grisedale Pike
The path wound its way down the other side and up again before we turned under the shadow of Hopegill Head and headed down again to Coledale Hause, which is like the bottom of a “U” shape with mountains either side.
Top: Hobgarten Crag with Hopegill Head at its end – seen from the descent of Grisedale Pike; 2: Panorama from Coledale Hause looking back to where we had been: 3: Looking down to Coledale Hause with Eel Crag in the background; Bottom: Hopegill Head from Grisedale Pike
After a lunch stop at Coledale Hause we followed a gradual climbing path (again) which eventually took us to the top of Crag Hill where we posed for photographs by the trig point set atop the hill. As usual with many lakeland paths, the descent off the hill is not readily evident from the top, but a quick check on the map and we set off in the general direction of the path, indicated by a small cairn of rocks. We had two more big summits to make before a long descending walk back to Braithwaite and our start point.
Us posing on top of Crag Hill
As we descended Crag Hill on a tough rocky path, the route ahead was gradually revealed. It turned out to be more of the same with a steep narrow climb up the next hill, Sail, before the path widened out once again. It was at this point that one of the group declared their unease in tackling the path ahead, and asked if there was an alternative route back. We decided to retrace our steps back down an easy path to Coledale Hause, then follow the valley route alongside Coledale Beck back to Braithwaite.
Top: Pano Coledale Valley from the Hause; Centre: Outerside on the left from Coledale Valley; Bottom: Force Crag Mine
Our last walk of the week, a short one for Lyn and I only, (Tim and Jo having departed) we parked at Littletown (where we should have been on that first Sunday!) and did a short but steep walk up to the top of Catbells. Alfred Wainwright, that great chronicler of the Lakeland fells, describes Catbells as having “a rare charm” and a “ravishing view”. He is right. Because of its proximity to Keswick it is a hugely popular walk, even on a Friday morning, we were never alone either walking up or on the top, but the views back along Derwentwater to Keswick on one side and the Newlands Valley on the other made this climb and scramble to the top very rewarding.
Above: Two views of the Newlands Valley at the start of our walk up to Catbells.
Top: I make the summit; Bottom: Us on top of Catbells
Above: Lyn celebrates making the summit of Catbells with some yoga poses.
The classic view – Derwent Water and Keswick from the summit of Catbells.
Top: This was the way down! Bottom: Two of the local hillside residents, Herdwick Sheep – the toughest breed……..so I am told.
Our week away was refreshing and as can be seen from the images, we were blessed with great weather. As we left, the leaves were starting to turn as Autumn took hold. Lyn and I are hoping for a return in November for the autumn colours. In the mean time, one last image from our week.
On our first day we watched this handsome spaniel sitting in front of someone, (not his owner) waiting in vain for a titbit of food from the man’s lunch box.