Walk Date – 6th March 2017
Distance – 8.6 miles
Weather – sunny and mild with a light breeze
A fifteen minute drive from home after lunch sees me parked up alongside the farm access road above the village of Helton. There are no problems finding a parking space up here even on the busiest Bank Holiday because a) there’s plenty of roadside space and b) because this area doesn’t seem to attract vast numbers of visitors. There are no specific tourist attractions, no cafes, no gift shops, just wide open moorland to tramp across and the knowledge that you can ‘get away from it all’ for a few hours.
Farm access track above Heltonhead – Tarn Moor – Brown Rigg – Wartches – Arthur’s Pike -Swarth Beck – Bonscale Pike – Swarth Fell – Swarth Beck -Whinny Crag – Long Crag – White Knott – Aik Beck – The Cockpit Stone Circle – Moor Divock – The Cop Stone – Heltonhead
There’s a slight breeze at the moment, as there usually is up here since there’s nothing to stop the wind rolling across. Its not strong enough to impede walking but it is doing a grand job of re-arranging my hair. Up on the left skyline is Loadpot Hill but I’m not going that far today. I’m about to cross the road and follow the grassy path which is going off to the right of the shot.
The sheep are too busy munching to pay any attention to me as I stop to take this view of Heughscar Hll.
Looking ahead as I walk along the waterlogged ‘grassy’ path across Tarn Moor. All the paths I walked along today were in a similar condition so a fair bit of time had to be spent avoiding the worst of the wetness, sometimes having to walk quite a few yards to one side or the other before finding anything approaching dryness. Its usually drier where the heather is growing because heather doesn’t seem to like having wet feet, so I can put up with it snagging on my bootlaces because I don’t like having wet feet either.
A look over to the east towards Heughscar Hill, on the left, and the snow topped Pennines in the distance. There were a couple of cars already parked when I arrived but their occupants are nowhere to be seen so its only me and the birds as I splodge my way over. One of the special attractions of this part of the Lakes, apart from its lack of crowds, is its vast openness which allows uninterrupted views of the constantly evolving skyscape.
I eventually left the path because it was leading me over towards The Cockpit, an ancient stone circle, and my plan was to visit that on my return. Leaving the path meant a bit of a pathless trudge up a slight rise over tussocky grass and heather in order to join up with the old Roman road which will lead me up to Arthur’s Pike. This route was very soggy but at least I had a view of Blencathra, over to the right, to take my mind off all the wetness.
The off path route didn’t last long and eventually I reached the old Roman road, that’s the dark green soggy area towards the bottom of the picture. I’ve just joined it from that narrow sheep trod to the right of it.
The conditions were obviously perfect for this paraglider soaring high above me. He just seemed to glide along very smoothly and, without any noticeable adjustments, would turn graceful arcs quite effortlessly. It was fascinating to watch, but I reckon it would have been a little on the chilly side up there, he was certainly very well wrapped up.
Back down here, on terra less than firma, I continue along the Roman road towards Arthur’s Pike. Its not very obvious but on the skyline, just to the right of centre, is a small hump and that’s where the summit of Arthur’s Pike is. It looks quite flat I know but the land is rising, its just that its so gentle that you hardly notice it. It was very warm now, my jacket has been stowed away in my pack for some time and I did the majority of the walk in just a t-shirt and lightweight jumper, plus the winter weight trousers, which I was beginning to regret wearing because it was so mild.
I had a brief pause at what may be a boundary stone, this is looking back towards the south east …..
….. and then the view to the north east. There are some markings on the boundary stone but I couldn’t quite make out what they were, maybe an M, H or W, so I can’t tell who owned land on either side of it.
A little further on and I draw level with the little hump I mentioned earlier. Once again I leave the path and make my way towards it over the rough and tussocky grass. I could have stayed on the path until the path from Arthur’s Pike joined it but I couldn’t be bothered with going straight ahead and then having to come back on myself. Its only a five minute walk across and once there …..
….. the summit of Arthur’s Pike is only another five minutes walk away.
The summit cairn of Arthur’s Pike over on the right and a glimpse of Ullswater on the left.
A quick calculation suggests that I have just enough time to go over to Bonscale Pike, which is over on the right above the Swarth Beck ravine. Loadpot Hill is over on the left but I definitely don’t have time to go up there, or we’d be having our tea at bedtime.
Another glimpse of Ullswater as I make my way over to Bonscale Pike. Things are a bit hazy but I don’t mind at all, its just so good to see the sun, blue sky and fair weather cloud once again after weeks and weeks of unremitting greyness, and there was a definite spring in my step as I walked across. The fact that it was downhill may have had something to do with it too.
A look back at my route from Arthur’s Pike down to the crossing at Swarth Beck.
The ruined sheepfold beside the beck.
Once across Swarth Beck its just a short walk up to Bonscale Pike.
Up on the top of Bonscale Pike and looking back to Arthur’s Pike.
The view north eastwards from Bonscale Pike. Nobody sailing on Ullswater today but it’ll be busy come the weekend if this weather keeps up.
Looking in the opposite direction, with Hallin Fell immediately below me in the centre. At the moment the breeze has subsided, the sun is very warm and I have the summit and the view all to myself. A few minutes of pure bliss.
I had a little wander away from the summit for a better view down to Ullswater. The whole of Hallin Fell is on view with Howtown jetty just in front of it. I followed the little path in the foreground over to the little rocky mound just below me to see the view from there.
The view was even better from here since you can see where Ullswater changes direction and turns south-westwards just beyond Hallin Fell …..
….. while to the right of me, from the same viewpoint, Ullswater heads off in a north easterly direction.
Immediately across from me on the skyline is Blencathra, still with a light dusting of snow, and its neighbouring northern fells.
I dropped down a few paces for a view of the two towers on the steep slopes just below Bonscale Pike summit. Not somewhere I’d choose to be in a strong wind as its one heck of a drop, but no such worries today.
Time is getting on so I begin to make my way off Bonscale Pike. The path leads back down to cross Swarth Beck and then up and across the fellside back to Arthur’s Pike.
Back on the slopes of Arthur’s Pike and I stopped to take a look back at Ullswater while I still had the view. Above me is another paraglider drifting gently along to Glenridding.
As I turned round to continue on up the fell side another one popped up which took me completely by surprise. I wasn’t expecting to see a very large orange crescent shape slowly appear, quite literally, out of the blue right in front of me.
My return route passed below the summit of Arthur’s Pike and passed alongside the collapsed cairn just below the summit.
It doesn’t look too collapsed from this angle but …..
….. the collapse is obvious from below. The summit cairn is just above over to the right.
A last look back as I begin to leave Arthur’s Pike.
That’s my long route back. Up ahead is the paraglider who had popped up in front of me as I was returning to Arthur’s Pike and as I was getting ready to take this shot the huge shadow of the canopy passed over me. It only took me a matter of seconds by which time he was disappearing into the distance. I was amazed by the speed at which he was travelling, when they are flying high above you there is no indication that they are moving so quickly and they just seem to be drifting along quite slowly.
I’ve now reached the cairn on White Knott, the path stretches ahead of me and there is still quite a long walk back, but the lovely afternoon makes it seem like no distance at all …..
….. and almost before I know it I arrive at the Aik Beck crossing point …..
….. and I’m making my way over to …..
….. the ancient stone circle known as The Cockpit. Its not easy to make out on the photo as the stones are so close to the ground, but it is quite a large circle and must have had some special significance for the people who created it. I’m always more interested in what these ancient people wore to keep their feet dry on this boggy moorland. Constructing unique structures is all very well but you have to think of the practicalities too, don’t you?
This is the Cop Stone. Its a glacial erratic but it is believed to have once formed part of a Bronze Age ring cairn.
Another view of the Cop Stone, and the tiny dot in the distance, over to the right, is my little red car. I’m almost back to where I started and, as the afternoon shadows are just beginning to lengthen, my walk comes to an end. Its been a very splashy affair but the lovely weather more than made up for that and made for a great afternoon’s walking. Apart from the two paragliders I haven’t seen another soul and, for the first time this year, my jacket and gloves stayed tucked away in my pack, sheer bliss!