Walking in The Lake District and Cumbria

Walking in the Lake DistrictThe Lake District is the UK's favourite area for walking and outdoor activities, from a gentle stroll around the most famous lakes in the country to exhilarating high ridge walks, which might include some scrambling over rocky terrain; the Lake District has a walk to suit all abilities. The many walking guides cater for all challenges from the most hardy and experienced mountaineers to groups that might include wheelchairs or buggies.

Kendal Ramblers have published illustrated walking guides which describe walks around Kendal, walks from Milnthorpe to Beetham, Grasmere to Alcock Tarn and around Arnside Knott. They are designed to bridge the gap between walking the bigger fells and a stroll with the dog. The leaflets are available from Kendal Tourist Information Centre and Kendal bookshops.

You can also download eight leaflets featuring walks along the X12 and no. 11 bus routes to Ulverston. These were produced by Coniston villagers in 2015 to help retain the Lake District bus services which have recently been under threat. These can be downloaded from here. Published in February 2016 is Walks From The Lakes Line, a leaflet highlighting five short walks from stations along the Lakes Line. Download here.

As part of the annual Keswick Mountain Festival, there is a programme of over 30 hikes and fell walking events with distances ranging from three to 23 miles. Also View Events in the Lake District with details of many walks.

In April 2016 the 20-mile Ullswater Way - which connects the spectacular scenery around the lake with picturesque villages and attractions - was officially opened. You can view full details and download a map here.

'Ranger Walking to Greenside and Keppel Cove'  Blog by Alvina Labsvirs - added 20/9/2012

I made a discovery or two this weekend. Did you know that you don't need to pay for a Guided Walk by a Lake District warden? Until yesterday I did not even know you could go on such a walk. Last week was, apparently, National Parks Week. I found out from the Ordnance Survey Facebook page and discovered the Events and Guided Walks page from the Lake District National Park site. How I had missed it before I don’t know, but now I can see myself referring to it a lot.

So, yesterday I met Graham, volunteer warden from Durham and a number of others for a guided walk to Greenside and Keppel Cove. In fact we were rather 'top heavy' with as many Chiefs as Indians. There were two rangers, a trainee ranger and, for the Parks Week special, a local historian, Warren Allison. The Indians comprised myself, a teacher from Sweden, who had planned her week's holiday using the Park's Website and travelling by public transport. Then a couple from Wales joined and the final participant being my dog – a great bonus as most other groups or guided walks I have seen do not allow dogs. Graham did explain that it was at the discretion of the lead warden to accept them, and if you turn up with an unruly dog you may be advised it would not be an appropriate walk.

We set off from the Tourist information centre at Glenridding in lovely warm sunshine up the valley towards Greenside Lead Mines. This was my first surprise, I didn't realise that it was a lead mine, I am ashamed to say that my local history is so bad I presumed it was a slate mine. Warren was a 'mine' of information (groan, sorry) and we stopped frequently to learn about the remains of the once industrial landscape which surrounded us.

Water was crucial to the success of the mines and there is a legacy of hydroelectric power dating back to the mid 1800s. No, not a mistake, as far back as that! The church and school in the valley were the first in the country to have electricity thanks to the mine owners.

All the buildings in the valley owe their existence to the mine, from cottages to gunpowder stores, once pilfered as a quick way of fishing. Even beyond the main mine area and slag, the ascent to Greenside has been sculpted by underground activity. Valleys have been scraped flat and vegetation is absent where heavy metals remain, still turning the ground blue. Our lunch stop was in a sheltered dip where a mine shaft had collapsed and more dramatic decay scared the hillside above.

All around the detritus of industry remains. Wooden sleepers and metal lay in a disparate scrapyard. Many of the walls and pathways are the remains of water courses used to channel the water needed for processing or power. Wooden chutes were built on flattened platforms and local rumour is that children used to ride down the hillside on makeshift rafts.

The path we took up the Raise is the remains of a chimney which helped to circulate the air for the miners. It looks no different from any other path, protected from wear, with a stone covering.

On the way down we went down to Keppel Cove, the remains of a natural tarn which burst its banks in 1927 causing havoc and destruction in the 30 minutes it took to empty in to the valley below. The remains of the replacement manmade dam are still in place, though this also burst four years later.

The route we took is here. As well as the history the scenery was naturally stunning with Glenridding being the start of the classic Helvellyn walk along Striding Edge. Graham, the guide, was knowledgeable, not only giving me advice on other walks in the area but adding to my limited knowledge of the alpine flowers. I learned that there are tiny insect eating plants on the fell side and one, butterwort, used to sour milk to create a yoghurt type drink. The somewhat haphazard summer weather resulted in catching sunburn on my shoulders and having rain soaked waterproofs within a few hours. But what a great day. Walking combined with learning. A knowledgeable guide, so no need to worry about consulting the map and all for free.

I would recommend anyone to use this great service and also, though the walk is free, to donate to the parks at the end. This is not a tip, it does not go to the guide but into the till at the information centre to help maintain the fells. Park and start at the Ulswater Information Centre, Glenridding, NY384 170 – if you have no change for the machine, pay at the Information Centre.

Alvina Labsvirs also writes on www.reasonstogonorth.com

'West Coast Wainwright' by Alvina Labsvirs - added 1/8/2012

Our inclement weather can make some walks pretty grim, and this is one I shall have to do again when there is less cloud on the top. Black Combe is the most south westerly of the Wainwright hills and in an area I have not walked so often. Though as I child I spent many balmy summers days on the beach at Silecroft.

There is a bridle way which goes up and over the top of Black Combe, and several other walks take advantage of 'open access' to make a slightly shorter day than North South route. We followed Walk 10 from the Cicerone book, walks in West Lakeland, which took off the most northerly stretch. Only afterwards reading that it was not a good idea to follow the route on a misty day. Suffice to say we survived, and the erratic clouds and fickle weather produced some interesting, if not always clear images.

The green of our 'green and pleasant' land has greater emphasis when newly washed and spotlighted through clouds, rather than a full summer sun. Though on balance I would rather walk in the full sun.

The route begins on a clear bridleway from Whitbeck, passing the delightfully named crags of Tarn Dimples. There is more of a challenge when it takes a right turn up William Gill. At times there is no clear pathway and walking over blueberry bushes and heather is certain good for the thighs, and balance, ref my outdoor gym. Typically it was at this point that the mist descended and began to play havoc with the view.

We were thankful of the wind for a change, as it removed the veil as quickly as it was applied.

At the top of the ridge then there was the advantage of having a clear track, but the gain in height meant a static grey hat to the hill and on a featureless summit, the only way to find the downward track was to use a compass. But the reward, when slipping under the brim, was the green undulating sides of the Wincham Valley in a soft summer spotlight.

Return to the start is by a footpath which borders the A59, so not such a pleasant end to the walk, but at least it is off the roadway. And naturally, the sun had returned and the sky was blue. (Walk starts at SD 118 839)

Alvina Labsvirs also writes on www.reasonstogonorth.com

'Plan C Through Dunndedale Forest' by Alvina Labsvirs - added 5/7/2012

The weathergods have, I think, got a little confused. Look at the beautiful blue of November 2011:

Now, compare with this wonderful skyline of the Duddon Valley taken on the 1st July 2012. I think the weather clock needs a re-boot.

This was a day when there was a plan, but the plan changed. The west Lakeland Fells were supposed to have the best conditions so we had planned to a walk around Harter Fell. The start was Birks Bridge car park, Eskdale, SD 235992, fairly easy round the Lake District Peninsulas on the trunk roads until you reach Duddon Bridge and head north along Smithy Lane to Ulpha and eventually Seathwaite. Alternatively you can get there by heading through Langdale or Little Langdale and over the Wrynose Pass.

Driving from Seathwaite to the car park I was wondering at the wisdom of going out and even my enthusiasm began to dampen at the sight of the trees turning themselves inside out along the road side. The shimmering underside of their leaves being more visible than the usual green. On arrival the mist had well and truly dropped on the the hills, promising that droplet coated mist filter often enjoyed by photographers of the Lake District. Not to be deterred we started the boot and coat routine, just as a group of young walkers came into the car park looking as though they had leapt in and out of the River Duddon rather than just hiked a mile or two. I hope they all managed their D of E!

Luckily, the rain ceased for a few hours just from the moment we managed to pile on our waterproof kit and begin. The mist lifted a little and the wind dropped, for a while, making walking not too unpleasant.

We did set off around the fell, but the ground was so sodden rain from above was not necessary. The damp seeped upwards and finding a dry place to step was an almost impossible challenge. The sound of water was everywhere. Cascading down underneath ferns and rocks even when far away from the white bands of above ground waterfalls. Feeling the conditions would not remain favourable for long we decided to take the quick route to the peak, rather than circuit the fell. Always have a plan B!

Plan B, changed to plan C when as we crossed a fence line around 400m. As the wind picked up it sent white tendrils of mist down to greet us. Not wanting to resort to use of my compass, or rather just being far too lazy to take off my rucksack. We took a left turn and followed the fence line west to where it joined a forestry track through Dunndedale Forest and eventually back to the car. I felt vindicated in my decision when we met other walkers following the fence in the opposite direction. They had made the summit, but become lost on their way down.

In Canada much of their forest is 'temperate rainforest' and if it is not, then Dunnderdale forest gave a good imitation of such. Some of the older trees were laden with lichen and mosses, indicative of the 'rainforest' conditions. It was interesting to read that there was an on-going regeneration program replacing the fir trees with native broad leaved species. just about the only sign that summer was battling through was the deep purple spires of foxgloves punctuating the green.

Walking back through the trees was just as soggy and it was totally pointless trying to stay dry so why not take up the sport of bog leaping. In, not over. Rosie, my dog was starting to resemble a peat pig and even her boundless enthusiasm for a day out was beginning to wane when, unexpectedly, a fox dashed out of cover, crossed the track and disappeared amongst the bracken on the hills side. Thankfully Rosie hadn’t seen the direction the fox went and so followed the scent the wrong way!

So, summary of walk. A little wet and somewhat shorter than anticipated but nothing can really dampen my enthusiasm for the Lakeland fells. After all they wouldn’t be what they are without the rain. The way back too, was spectacular. I cannot remember the last time I drove over Wrynose Pass so took the 'alternate' route back across the leaky mountain pass, to return on a drier day.

Alvina Labsvirs also writes on www.reasonstogonorth.com

'Red Screes from Kirkstone Pass' by Alvina Labsvirs - added 16/6/2012

Just a note, we approached Kirkstone pass from Troutbeck taking a small road, Mislet Brow turning into Moorhowe road. This not only cut off a big corner, but gave the most amazing view of the Cumbrian Hills from a road I have seen. Apparently, as it is west facing, it is worth going at sunset. I am reliably informed. Take a right turn off the A591 OS4607983.

Back to the walk. From the Kirkstone Pass Inn it is easy to follow the rights of way marked on the Ordnance Survey map, OL7.

From the car park across the road from the Inn we took the permissive path down towards Brothers Water. The path passes by Middle Dodd and carries on passed High Hartsop Dodd and down to the lake. At the spur of High Hartsop Dodd there is a path on the ground straight up to the top. This is not marked on the map, but it is an open access area and there is a clearly defined path on the ground. From Bell Knot there is then a mapped path across the ridge to Little Hart Crag.

From here we dropped down to something which must have a correct geographical name, (please tell me if you know). An upland valley where four routes meet. North West to Dove Crag and the Fairfield range, South west down Scandale Pass, North to Caiston Glen and back to Brothers water and finally South East, our ultimate route to Red Screes. As it was such a lovely day and ‘it was there’ we took a slight detour to walk up to Middle Dodd. Another Wainwright 'bagged'.

Red Screes is craggy, impressive and at first glance, seemingly impassible.

The path down was not the highlight of the day. As it’s name suggests it is pretty much 'scree' and yes, it is red. So it was a careful descent with more watching of feet than the hills around. One thing that was a surprise was seeing a Ring Ouzel. This is a black bird about the size of a blackbird with a white ring around the breast. We did not know what it was but the RSPB's Identifier helped and the call was very clear. Reading the breeding ground of steep sided valleys, crags and gullies, it made perfect sense that it should be there. Sods law I had the wide angle lens on my camera, and where I was perched, let alone the bird, was not the best choice to faff about.

Safely in the valley we could see black storm clouds approaching. The April showers were back.

Alvina Labsvirs also writes on www.reasonstogonorth.com

'A Perfect Day for Walking...'  Walking around Coniston by Alvina Labsvirs - added 6/6/2012

A perfect day for walking, maybe. High pressure and temperatures of 27°C plus, with a gentle breeze. The Coniston area was once a mining village and the industrial heritage is still very much on view. We walked from the top of Walna Scar road, passing the imposing crags of The Bell then turning left up to Low Water and The Old Man. Just emerging bracken and spring grass spread deep rich green down to the lake and beyond to Grizedale Forest.

Ahead and left the grey quarry and slate remain from the old mines. The slate projects through the undulating peaks as the trail winds upwards and the debris of recent history remains scattered over the hillside. Steel cables and pylons remain in testimony on how harsh it was to work these mines. The scrap value must surely be quite high. The disused shafts mark the trail amid the cable tendrils.

From the quarry to the peak, slate dominates the ascent but looking back the green unfolded until the Furness sands splashed across the horizon. The breeze, which had been welcome and slight, as we set off, was strong and gusting as we hit the peak and well built cairn. We ate lunch among the inevitable congregation of walkers as they emerged from various trails.

The plan was to return via Dow crag and Walna Scar Road in an anti-clockwise circuit, but the weather, yes the weather, was against us. As we dropped down Goat Hawse the breeze was developing into storm force. As we crossed the Hawse I regretted emptying the weight out of my backpack. The wind gusted and I was lifted completely off my feet and deposited unceremoniously in a heap, a metre or so to the north. The wind funneled up the valley from the sea with little in the way.

Not to be deterred we continued for a couple of hundred metres up towards Dow Crag when another gust lifted me up! Sometimes being small and light does have its disadvantages. After this second tussle with the wind we decided we were not going to be responsible for calling the Mountain Rescue and headed back down the Hawse and Goats Water. Heading straight into the wind. Logic being we would only be blown back into the hill and not off a ridge. What is often a calm tarn sheltered on three sides and turned into an inland sea with white horses racing.

The wind made an easy descent far more challenging and it was not until we were on the flat of the Walna Scar Road that it was possible to hold more than a snatched conversation. Coniston Old Man is one of the first peaks on the southern edge of the Lake District fells and though the southern winds are bringing us welcome warmth, the hills managed to provide unexpected challenges.

Alvina Labsvirs also writes on www.reasonstogonorth.com

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