Those who remember the music of the 1980s may recall a song by Steve Winwood called “Back In The High Life Again”. He wrote about closed doors opening up, and we had that sort of feeling recently as we travelled to Keswick in Cumbria for our annual walking week with our Ramblers Group. It was our first time away since the lockdown kicked in last Autumn.
On the way up we spent a couple of nights in Nidderdale, near the North Yorkshire town of Harrogate, a convenient pause on the route to The Lakes. Our base was the village of Darley and the only pub in the village, The Wellington Inn, which, according to its website dates back to the 18th Century. Our room was comfortable and overlooked the classic Dales view of rolling hills divided up into small fields by miles of dry stone walls.
We had planned a walk from the Inn which took in local villages, paths and fields, and the odd herd of cows, with a return along the path beside the river Nidd, which gives Nidderdale its name. It was a lovely walk on a warm sunny day, and it felt good to be out somewhere new. Even with some Covid restrictions still in place we had a very pleasant stay.
Clockwise From Top Left: View From the hill above Darley; Glasshouses village in Nidderdale; Dacre Church; Track up to High Crag.
Our onward journey to Keswick took in Fountains Abbey, preserved ruins of a 12th Century Cistercian Abbey close to Ripon in North Yorkshire. Founded in 1132, Fountains Abbey became one of the wealthiest monasteries in England until its forced dissolution in 1539 on the orders of King Henry VIII. The new owner destroyed much of the fabric of the building and today it is a historical ruin with a fascinating history. It is close to Studley Royal Gardens which we also visited.
We arrived in Keswick on a Saturday afternoon and it was as if there were no restrictions at all. It was Market Day and although there was supposed to be a pedestrian one way system in force, it was largely ignored, as were the social distancing regulations. The place was very crowded, swelled by people arriving for the Lakesman Iron Man Triathlon which was being held the following day. We were here to walk so hopefully there would be some peace and quiet on the hills and mountains around the town.
Meeting the group in the centre of Keswick on the Sunday morning, our first walk took in the lakeshore at Derwentwater, where we paused to admire the classic view of Catbells across the lake. For some in the group it was their first visit to the Lake District and the sight of mountains all around produced “wow” moments from many people. My thoughts were interrupted by the thumping music “entertaining” the spectators waiting for the Iron Man competitors returning from their bike ride, the swim element having already concluded.
We were able to leave the noise and people behind as we walked around the lake past Friars Crag, across the Borrowdale road and up into the hills for a coffee stop at Stone Crag . After coffee, there was more woodland walking and we eventually emerged at Castlerigg Stone Circle.
The Stone Circle is thought to originate from around 3000BC and has commanding views of the Thirlmere Valley, Helvellyn and High Seat to the south. Looking back, Skiddaw and Blencathra dominate the scene.
Castlerigg is a popular Lakeland visitor destination and today was no different. Many cars and camper vans were parked on the side of the road and against regulations, some had pitched tents along one side of the field presumably to celebrate the Summer Solstice which was the following day. Odd because Castlerigg pre-dates other noted stone circles, being from Neolithic times and it is not known if the circle has any religious connections or connotations. Nevertheless it is hugely popular with tourists and a noted venue for Landscape photographers. However, not for me. The presence of tourists and tents spoilt the atmosphere and the sights of the place. There are a number of my images of Castlerigg Stone Circle on previous lakeland blogs.
Refreshed by lunch we left Castlerigg to the tourists and walked out along other tracks and trails, slowly making our way to the top of Latrigg Fell.
Although one of the lowest fells in the Lakes, Latrigg gives one of the best views of Keswick, Derwentwater and down the Borrowdale Valley to the south, because of its location directly north of the town. Behind Latrigg, Skiddaw and Littleman dominate the skyline.
Clockwise from top left: View from Latrigg toward Skiddaw; Mountain view; Us on the path up to Latrigg Fell; Lyn on top of Latrigg with Derwentwater in the background.
From the summit the group had a gentle walk back into Keswick via Fitz Park. A very enjoyable days walking blessed with fine weather.
The longest day – 21 June – dawned cool and breezy, the weather forecast gave a 20% chance of rain as we embarked on our next group walk. This one would take in Great Dodd, Calfhow Pike and Clough Head from the start point, just outside the small village of Dockray.
As we started the walk, the clouds were covering some of the higher hilltops but as we started to climb to the top of Great Dodd the mist descended and we walked into a dull grey world with limited visibility all ways, including down! With the mist comes drizzle and cold. We also noted the not uncommon Lakeland phenomena of 20mph mist and drizzle, as the wind picked up. Known in walking circles as a “Lazy Wind”, because it goes straight through you, it hastened the change to warmer clothes and waterproof jackets. On a good day the view from Great Dodd has views towards Thirlmere. This was not a good day. Views past our companions down the valley were non-existant in the cloud as we trailed off this fell on towards Calfhow Pike, which was similarly shrouded in mist.
The poor weather did relent as we topped Clough Head and this afforded limited views of Thirlmere to the south and Bassenthwaite Lake to the north. Interestingly, Bassenthwaite is the only named Lake in the Lake District, all the others are “meres” or “waters”.
Our walk off the hill back to the start point was interrupted by the wonderful view of two working sheepdogs (Border Collies) guided by their shepherds, rounding up the sheep and herding them down the track to pastures new. It was fascinating to watch these dogs, guided by whistles and brief commands from their owners, rounding up the sheep and keeping the flock together.
As we drove back to Keswick, the cloud cleared away and we were greeted with bright warm sunshine. Not one to miss an opportunity to head out with my camera I made for Watendlath, one of my favourite locations in these parts for an hour or so with my camera.
Hallin Fell lies on the eastern side of the Lake District and a 20 minute walk from Martindale Church puts you at the top giving fantastic views of Martindale, Boredale and Ullswater. I spent a sunny but breezy morning there practicing various Landscape photography techniques and just taking in the location and scenery.
Lyn and I had a shorter walk after lunch from Castlerigg down to St Johns in the Vale and back up via Low Rigg and Tewet Tarn back to the start point.
Another drizzly day and another group walk, this time through Borrowdale via Rosthwaite to Castle Crag, which sits at the southern end of Derwentwater, returning via Manesty Woods and Grange to the start point.
About twenty minutes from the start is the Bowder Stone and we paused briefly here for a look round. The Bowder Stone is a large andestite boulder that reputedly fell 2250m off Bowder Crag on Kings How around 10-13,000 years ago. It has been a tourist attraction in Borrowdale since around 1798 when folk were charged to climb up the stone via steps which had been built for the purpose! Tourists today will be relieved to hear that access to the stone is now free and it is owned and maintained by the National Trust.
Top: Bowder Stone. Bottom: Wild Sedum
The walk from the Bowder Stone to Rostthwaite and on to Castle Crag was straightforward, as was the walk up to the scree plateau that lies below the summit of Castle Crag. The group lingered on the plateau for a while and some left there rucksacks at the base and scrambled up the scree and slate path to the summit. Castle Crag is renown for its views up Derwentwater towards Keswick. Today’s view was hampered slightly by the low hanging mist in the distance, but nevertheless worth the climb.
View down to Rosthwaite and Borrowdale from Stone Crag
Rumours had been circulating for a while about a “Borrowdale Banksy”, an anonymous individual who has been creating and leaving stone sculptures in secret locations around Borrowdale. On the slate plateau at Castle Crag was a symmetrical pile of old slates arranged in a curious collapsed vertical semi-circle. Could this be one of the infamous sculptures? The truth is, no-one knows, but it was nice to speculate that we had seen one of the rare works!
Descending off Castle Crag we headed through some woodland to pick up the river path that would take us on to Manesty Wood, Grange and back to the start point of the walk.
Top: Reflections – our lunch stop; Centre: South end of Derwentwater; Bottom: Crossing the river into Grange
For us, this was the last walk of the week with the group. We had other commitments to meet and on the last day the planned walk was cancelled because the weather forecast was soo poor it was judged not worth going out. And so it proved as the low grey cloud, heavy rain and blustery wind on the last day would have made any walk a distinctly unpleasant experience. We did escape our accommodation for an hour in the afternoon when the rain relented.
I did manage a trip out to Loweswater on a spare morning. The weather was windy and overcast but I managed to get some images worthy of “tweeting” below:
Once again we have sampled “the high life” in the hills and mountains of the Lake District and it has left us wanting more, socially distanced of course!