Sept 9, Longhwaite
My third day in this hostel, so ideally situated and so comfortable. I wanted to see the villages of Stonethwaite and Rosthwaite, on the way I enjoyed the birds in the early morning flitting around in the hedges. Stonethwaite, obviously named for the clearing of the stones, as it is well up the valley towards Scafell Pike which continually tumbles rocks off of its slopes. The thwaites are clearings not crossing as I thought. And a lot of clearing would be needed here. Rosthwaite is a clearing in the rose bushes.
In the Stonethwaite church they indicated that when the Scandinavian settlers came in the tenth century they began the work of clearing the fields. The endless stone fences and stone buildings are the obvious result of the clearing, but more important to the farmers was to get clear fields so the grass could grow. No doubt the work never ends and the farmers have been at it for 1000 years.
After walking up the valley, and spending sometime taking pictures in Stonethwaite Beck, I turned around as today I was heading into the big city, Kewick to do some business. I caught a second bus immediately, taking me through Keswick on towards Grasmere for about 5 miles as I wanted to see The Castlerigg Stone Circle.
Castlerigg is one of the better of the many stone circles in Britain, the most important being Stonehenge that I will not likely get to see. It is about a km off of the main road well outside of Keswick and I got to it by climbing through a break in the stone fence. There were about 10 people sitting around appreciating the setting. One couple were sitting amongst the stones burning incense (I don’t always know what Maryanna smells like) and chanting. I waited for a while but the spirits did not visit me. There are about 20 stones, the largest about 2 m above the ground. The setting, in a green field with mountains in the distance all around, could not be more inviting.
Back through town, very much a tourist town, to pick up a few things and back on the bus to Roshwaite, much nicer in my mind.
I made a lot of bookings from the hostel,
Sept 10 Buttermere
I packed up everything and after breakfast got on the bus and continued on over Honister pass into the next valley where I will spend two nights. I dropped my bags in the YHA at about 9:30 and headed up onto the fell north of the valley. I was headed to Robinson Fell, interesting because it has such an ordinary name. It was mostly grassy slopes up the minor peak, across a boggy flat area and then another push up. It took about an hour and a half. I got there a minute or so before a Japanese woman , wh I have been talking with, who is staying at Longthwaite and doing walks each day. She was on the same bus as I came on and walked to Robinson from Honister Pass, taking a bit more than two hours. This seemed like a good thing for me to do, crossing Dale Head down to the pass to get the bus which I thought I had 1 ½ hours to catch. So I headed off going pretty fast. I crossed an intermediate fell and on up Dale Head making good time as there were very few rocks on the trail. I got to Dale head in good time looked at my watch and noted that I had misread my watch. I still had over 1 ½ hours before the bus arrived and it would only be ½ hour down to the pass. So I slowed down a bit, but still had enough time to eat a meat pie and have coffee at the visitor centre.
In the evening I had long talks with a couple doing a two night bike trip on road bikes with almost no gear. On the other end of the spectrum, at least equipment wise was a guy on an electric bike. He says the best he can get is about 25 miles, but not here where there are steep passes.
Sept 11, Buttermere
Early on the trail, the birds are singing and flitting through the hedges. The mist lies heavy on the green meadows and rises, almost blotting out the sun’s reflection on Buttermere Lake . It is always my favourite time on any hike, these first minutes, and I wonder again why no one else is out.
Soon the hike begins in earnest as I hit the flagstones leading up from the edge of the lake. Through fairly deep forest, it remains cool and fresh. Passing through a gate into a heather field I am soon into the sun as it peeks around the shoulder of High Stile, and the sweat begins to run. I try to force myself to slow down a bit by taking some pictures as I go. I understand, finally, that I do not have to rush in these hills.
I come upon a real live Shepherd of indeterminate age, he too is sweating. He is slowing making his way up the hills to bring his sheep down for lambing. Others are above him, and I can hear them calling, probability directing their dogs. Wrapped up in the community of fell walkers that I have been among for the last week, it is easy to forget that this elemental life is going on, little changed over the years.
The last bit of this way up Red Pike is pretty steep scree which is always good for an extra grunt or two.
Now that I have gained the high ground the walking is easy as I begin to walk eastwards heading for the next fell. Soon I pass over High Stile, and carry on towards High Crag, where I meet three Coast to Coast walkers who are heading west, which means they have only two days left. They are taking a high line alternative and have just come up from Black Sail hostel, just below, in the Ennerdale.
Now I have a major drop where I begin to see quite a few others who have come up from the Buttermere side. Their destination is the Haystacks and I join in. There is some easy scrambling to do, adding yet more variation to this walk. The Haystacks are two major hills of rock with the odd tarn in little rock pockets. They are quite out of character with the other fells I have seen. Finally I get to Innominate Tarn and I stop for a late snack and to soak up the atmosphere.
Alfred Wainwright, the guru on fell walking and the most prominent writer of guide books on the Lake District, has been sprinkled here. This walk, the one I am doing, was his favourite walk, and that is saying something because he did many. His seven guidebooks, beautifully hand printed with hand drawn maps, defined the 214 fells that have come to be known as The Wainwrights, and which many now attempt to walk.
I made my way down out of the Haystacks, on up over another fell and down to Holister Pass to catch the same 2:09 bus that I caught yesterday.
This was a lovely if tiring walk and it deserved a beer in each of the pubs in Buttermere before I staggered back up the road to the hostel for a badly needed shower. I stagger not because of the beer, but because I still get so stiff after sitting for a bit.
I had another enjoyable evening in the hostel, this time with two Wainwright collectors and a wannabe.
Sept 12 Grasemere
I spent the day moving over, on bus, to Grasmere. I had a visit to Ambleside and then a walk along the lakes back to Grasmere, stopping into Dove Cottage for a visit with Wordsworth. A quiet walking day, but still enjoyable.
Sept 13, Grasmere
I am headed up Helvellyn, the third highest mountain in the Lakes. It is Saturday and the bus is running along the Ullswater valley and so I can do a traverse. Very steep but good walking up to Grisedale Tarn, where I turn and head up and over Dollywaggon and Nethermost Pikes to get to Helvellyn. I am actually caught by two walkers and then encounter mtn bikers, fell runners and teams of adventure racers. It is obviously Saturday. As I approached the summit I can see Striding Edge, a rocky ridge that many do when coming up from Ullswater. There are maybe twenty silhouetted bodies along the ridge. I had considered going down this way, but it looks like it would be slow, particularly with all the bodies on it.
My way down, Swiral Edge, still has half an hour of down climbing for me and I didn’t do too well. I am glad I didn’t try Striding Edge.
It is a long steady walk down on a broad path with much rock picking and stone steps. I walked into Glenridding some six hours after I started. I had about 20 minutes, just in time for a beer in a pub before an hour bus ride back to Windermere and then onto Grasmere.
Yet another good day. I had a long visit with my electric bike friend from Buttermere, as we traded stories.
Sept 14, Grasmere
As I am now staying at Grasmere until Tuesday before heading out to Carlisle to catch the train back to London, I have another day to meander. I was slower this morning, still I headed out with my walking gear. Twenty minutes brought me to a sign pointing to the Langdale Pikes and so I made my way through more modest paths onto the grassy slopes above Grasmere. It was a much colder and threatening day and so I continually questioned going on, but after about three hours, much of it not on good paths, I was on the first Langdale where there were a few other people. I headed out across what looked like the prairie to another peak. These flat plateaus are very grassy with the odd boggy section. From the second peak people seemed to be heading off in directions that didn’t make sense to me, and so I went by my map and intuition to another peak and then down where I hit the coast to coast trail and four or five parties that I caught as we picked out way down through the rocks back down to Grasmere. This day took seven hours, much more that I had planned. One knee is getting pretty tired and so I think I have to take it abit easier tomorrow before I head back to London.
My Lake District experience was wonderful. The hostels are great, good food, good drinks, good company. The walking is exceptional and the weather wonderful. I think I bagged about 20 Wainwrights and so I have less that 200 to go.
I have a couple of train travel now. Back to London to get my biking things, onto to Edinburgh to meet Owen and family for the Ryder Cup. And then if Owen is successful in bring Bike Friday I will do a little cycling.
Hi Ken: many thanks for your interesting travelogues, and reflections. Take care and best wishes for all your further excursions. Anette and Franz