Walk date – 5th August 2019
Distance – 7.4 miles
Weather – overcast, cool, a few sunny spells, brisk southwesterly breeze
The day didn’t start well. My car was due its M.O.T. at 9.00 am this morning, an appointment booked online early last week which was quickly acknowledged with a confirmatory email. Off I went, arriving at 8.45 am, complete with a paperback to while away the time while the mechanic did the required checks. I presented myself at the reception desk and waited while the chaps scanned their screens. They couldn’t find my booking so called upon the skills of one of their superiors to help them out, needless to say he couldn’t find any booking either. Thinking I may have arrived on the wrong date I asked him to check the remainder of this week and the following week, which he did and still found nothing. I’m now seriously doubting my sanity and wondering if I’ve imagined the whole booking process. The chap dealing with my dilemma picked up the phone, called Head Office and after passing on the requested details and waiting for a few minutes back came the reply. Yes, Head Office informed him, the booking had been made online for the correct date and time, a confirmatory email had been sent to me, they couldn’t understand why it wasn’t showing up on the test centre screens, and did I want to re-book or should they give me a refund. From the reaction of the guy dealing with all of this I got the impression that this wasn’t the first time he’d had to deal with this problem, and I had to give him credit for not losing his temper with them. He’s the one being made to look a fool and having to deal with unhappy customers when none of it is his fault. To cut a long story short I re-booked for later in the week and went back home almost foaming at the mouth with anger, annoyance and exasperation over such incompetence. It can’t be that difficult to link an online booking system in a head office with the appropriate test centre, can it? What’s the good of head office knowing about a booking, if the centre where the customer is going to turn up hasn’t been informed. All of which has nothing to do with today’s walk other than it was its precursor. Getting outdoors and enjoying a couple of hours of energetic walking is a good antidote for banishing pent up feelings. It was yet another grey and overcast day and it was now mid-morning so we decided to make the short journey over to Patterdale and have a low level walk up to Ruthwaite Lodge along the Grisedale valley. Glenridding and Patterdale were heaving with visitors but we managed to squeeze in the pay and display car park opposite the Patterdale Hotel, just as a passing shower arrived which kept us in the car for another five minutes until it passed over and we were finally able to get under way.
Patterdale – Grisedale (Elmhow footpath) – Ruthwaite Lodge – Grisedale (Braesteads footpath) – Patterdale
From the car park we turned right and walked back along the road passing Patterdale Primary School and the Patterdale MRT base, then rounding the bend in the road and passing St Patrick’s church, at 11.15 am. If you like organ music a 45 minute recital is given by the church organist every Monday, at 8.30 pm, from May to September, to raise funds for the renovation of the organ. No entry fee but all donations will no doubt be gratefully received.
Leaving the church behind we carry on in the direction of Glenridding, crossing the road when the pavement runs out, until we reach the lane heading into Grisedale where we re-crossed the road to begin our walk through Grisedale. The road was constantly busy so we had to wait a while.
The tarmac lane climbs steeply to begin with but eventually the gradient eases and we stop for a breather at the gate for a view of Thornhow End. If you walk either of the paths from The Patterdale Hotel or The White Lion’s car park , a little further along, and walk through Glenamara Park, ignoring any of the footpaths leading off, this is where you will end up.
From the gate we begin to drop down into the valley, although in actual fact we have been in Grisedale since we began walking the tarmac lane. It doesn’t feel like a dale at the start though especially during the initial climb through the woods and with Grisedale Beck quite some distance below us. Everything is very muted at the moment thanks to the large amount of cloud cover above us. Its supposed to be a dry day today but the spell of very unsettled weather we’ve been having lately could easily result in the clouds dumping their contents on us at any time.
The path levels out as we reach the valley bottom and get a view of the spectacular skyline in its entirety. When walking the paths over the grassy tops of the Helvellyn range there is no hint of the dramatic scenery below, which only becomes apparent if you walk close to the rim and indulge in a spot of peering over the edge, whether it be to gasp in awe or scare yourself witless. Up ahead a spot of camping is going on, more or less opposite Braesteads Farm, with two vehicles parked beside quite a roomy tent.
One of the vehicles belonged to the National Trust and the little cartoon on the rear door panel amused me. We have seen this taking place many, many times over the years, usually in the rain, with a strong westerly trying to wrest the map from a walker’s grip as he or she struggles to get their bearings. It reminded me of many similar incidents from our past walking adventures too, been there, suffered that. Ever spent ages looking for a certain landmark only to realise that you are standing right in front of it? Yes, so have we!
The tarmac eventually runs out and the track becomes gravelly, still easy walking though as its firm and relatively level, with just the occasional undulation here and there. On the skyline Saint Sunday Crag comes into view for the first time.
The grandeur of Grisedale soon begins to be revealed and on the skyline, from left to right, are the summits of Dollywaggon Pike, High Crag and Nethermost Pike.
More of Saint Sunday Crag comes into view, as do a whole lot more sheep, most of whom seem to be gathered by the gate just ahead of Elmhow Farm. As we were going through a previous gate a car came up behind us and drove on through, its occupants giving waves by way of thanks for none of them having to get out and open it. As we passed by the farm we saw it parked outside so we knew they were holidaymakers, hopefully enjoying their stay in the Lake District. Elmhow Farm is now a very upmarket holiday let with prices to match but no phone signal or TV reception, so I hope the youngsters in the back of the car had been forewarned or their parents would never have heard the end of it.
Wishing to leave the holidaymakers in peace I didn’t take photos of the farm, but just beyond it is this old barn with the track passing to the left of it and up to a gate. Just beyond the gate, and difficult to locate, is the start of an old path, the Elmhow zig-zag, which apparently used to be very popular but not much used nowadays. We identified it rising up the slopes on our return leg so I’ll point it out on the photo I took when we get to it.
Rounding another turn in the track and the bulky Eagle Crag comes into view with a number of spoil heaps from the old lead mining days strewn across its lower slopes. Right behind it is the steep east ridge of Nethermost Pike and its easy to see why it carries the name Pike. It looks very different though when you’re standing on the top of it as the whole of the summit area is more reminiscent of a flat and stony field than a pike.
Dollywaggon Pike, and it numerous crags, as we walk above Crossing Plantation. The sky is still as grey as an old vest but some sunlight occasionally manages to filter through patches of thinner cloud to brighten things up for a few seconds.
With Crossing Plantation now behind us the path descends slightly and then begins to climb once again on its way to up to Grisedale Hause.
Across the valley is Eagle Crag, with the spoil heaps, with Nethermost Pike right behind it. The hollow between the two is Nethermost Cove. Eagle Crag is popular with rock climbers and they have probably created the various routes which we could see amongst the bracken.
Looking back to Crossing Plantation and …..
….. across to Eagle Crag for another view as the lights came back on again.
Still dropping down but across the rocky hump on the left the path begins to rise again. Its not steep but the largish cobbles can make hard work of it when they slither away from under your boots. I took to walking over the sides to keep up a steady pace, which is not easy to do when you’re walking over rounded cobbles the size of tennis balls, and bigger.
Looking back along the valley to Crossing Plantation with a very dull looking Place Fell right behind it.
An old sheepfold beside the beck in the bottom of the valley. Most sheepfolds seem to have fallen out of use now, farmers tend use quad bikes, wherever possible, to get their sheep back to the farm for sorting and shearing. This seemed to be in good repair so perhaps it still has its uses.
Eagle Crag in the sunshine again with a part of Striding Edge, looking chilly and very unwelcoming, behind it. Hope its not excessively windy up there today.
The imposing and impressive crags of Dollywaggon Pike. Over on the left skyline is Falcon Crag, on the right is The Tongue and between the two in the very sunlit Spout Crag. If you peer hard enough you should be able to spot Ruthwaite Lodge on the sunny slope below Spout Crag, and that’s where we’re heading.
Grisedale Beck in a hurry to join forces with Ullswater down in Patterdale and just a little further on …..
….. we reach the footbridge across the beck and look straight ahead towards Grisedale Hause, guarded by Cofa Pike and Fairfield on the left and Dollywaggon Pike’s Tarn Crag and Falcon Crag on the right.
The path bears right across the bridge and we keep this view most of the way up to the Lodge.
A little further on we come to the bridge across Ruthwaite Beck. We kept straight ahead on the path at this point, but on the return leg we will come back down from the Lodge to this bridge which we will cross and pick up the path on the other side of the valley. A little further on the path begins the climb up to the Lodge, not a steep climb just a short but stiffish pull up, which is made somewhat easier thanks to the pitched path.
Up at Ruthwaite Lodge now and a splendid view of the western face of Saint Sunday Crag. The path continues on up to Grisedale Hause but this will be our lunch stop and turnaround point. Shortly after taking this shot a young couple came down past us, he was wearing shorts and t-shirt, she was wearing a warm, and zipped up, jacket, a woolly hat and gloves. All the way up the brisk, cool wind had been directly in our faces but the walk up generated enough body heat to compensate so we didn’t feel especially cold. Higher up, where the couple had come from, had obviously been much colder and the girl must have been glad she’d brought some extra clothing with her. The young lad didn’t seem to have much in his pack so he might not have had any extra layers with him. Perhaps he wasn’t feeling the chill quite as much as his companion, or maybe he was just being tough and macho. We were certainly feeling the coolness of the wind when we stopped so we took shelter from it around the side of the lodge, a spot just vacated by a couple of guys who had had a brief stop there, and where we took a lunch break.
The commemorative plaque on the Lodge wall …..
….. and the Lodge itself, plus three tents the sides of which were flapping and rattling like crazy in the sharp wind. The tents sported white print in one of the bottom corners indicating that they belonged to the Outward Bound Trust, but no-one was around so we assumed that the occupants of the tents were outward bounding somewhere in the vicinity.
Cofa Pike and Fairfield on the skyline with the climb up Saint Sunday Crag rising on the left.
Ruthwaite Beck tumbling down from Ruthwaite Cove, just above which the craggy east faces of High Crag and Nethermost Pike are appearing.
A longer view of the beck showing some of the spectacular falls dropping one after the other in rapid succession.
A look back at the billowing tents, the Lodge and Spout Crag as we take our leave and retrace our steps down the pitched path back to the bridge.
The view along Grisedale from the hillside just below the Lodge after which, a few minutes later …..
….. we are back at the bridge across Ruthwaite Beck where we cross over to the Braesteads side of the valley for the return leg of our walk. Our outward path can be seen on the opposite hillside just above the bridge.
The walk back down passed uneventfully and here and there it was possible to catch a glimpse of some of Grisedale Beck’s waterfalls. Fences and the steep sides of the beck make it impossible to get close enough for a good look at them though.
Still heading down the valley and high above the deep ravine where the beck is presently hidden from view although not out of earshot.
Passing below Eagle Crag and its spoil heaps and where tracks through the bracken are showing up quite clearly. The ground below the crag is littered with fallen rock most of which seem to have originated from the crag itself but there are some very large erratics dotted around, mostly of the Shap pink granite variety.
Close by is this derelict building, probably associated with the old lead mine workings as it doesn’t look right for a sheepfold.
We reach the bridge over Nethermostcove Beck where J stops to get the binoculars out to see if he can identify where the various tracks through the bracken are leading to while I take a look at Place Fell towards the end of the valley.
J stows the binoculars away and hoists his pack. It seems that some of the tracks appear to curve around the back of Eagle Crag so maybe that’s where rock climbers make for to begin their climbs.
Another look across to Saint Sunday Crag as I wait for J to catch up with me. The crags up there are also popular with climbers, in particular the Grade 3 Pinnacle Ridge route where ropes and all the other necessary gear are likely to be needed along the way from time to time. That wouldn’t be my cup of tea at all.
The path on this side of the beck seems much less undulating than the opposite one and has no tennis ball sized cobbles anywhere along its length so our progress over it was very straightforward. Behind us is Grisedale Hause where Fairfield and Dollwaggon Pike stand austere and colourless under the heavy grey cloud …..
….. as does Nethermost Pike to the right of Eagle Crag
One of large erratics I mentioned earlier which has probably been sitting here for thousands of years just waiting for me to come along and take its photo.
Across the valley and tucked in beside the trees is Elmhow Farm, the upmarket holiday let I mentioned earlier. Behind it is Birks and alongside the grey stones of the beck on the extreme right of the shot the old zig-zag path can be seen, a zoom in will show it more clearly though. Where it begins though seems to be something of a mystery so perhaps its hidden somewhere behind the trees.
I could see this structure from some distance back along the path but couldn’t quite decide what it was, it looked to be a kind of barrier to begin with, then a bit further down it gave the appearance of the backrest of a seat and when we eventually came alongside it looked like Grisedale’s version of a wishing well. J nipped up to investigate but all it contained was a metal water tank, of the kind you might find up in a roof space to hold the cold water. The overflow was working overtime. I’ve no idea why its there but it was a well built and sturdy little structure so it was obviously intended to last.
We’re well down the valley now with another splash of sunlight brightening the fields below Thornhow End.
An old style metal gate is a rare sight these days, which is a pity because it has a kind of charm which the more usual wooden type simply lacks, Where I grew up this was the type of gate I was used to seeing and going through so perhaps I become more than a little nostalgic when I see one still in use.
Place Fell and Angletarn Pikes come into view and fill the skyline as we progress along the path which eventually …..
….. joins with another one at this junction, We have arrived at the junction from the left hand path and the one on the right is the beginning of the path up to ‘The Hole in the Wall’ and the beginning of the route across Striding Edge which can just be seen on the skyline. The end point of the path is at the top of the light brown patch just to the left of the single tree in the bracken. As can be seen there’s quite a bit of distance between here and there so there’s a long uphill walk to be done before walkers get anywhere near Helvellyn.
We leave the path junction at the top gate to make our way down to the valley bottom. The gate on the right of the shot comes in from Lanty’s Tarn.
J on his way down the field and making for the bridge across Grisedale Beck.
A zoom in on Thornhow End as we make our way down …..
….. followed by a look along the valley towards Saint Sunday Crag and ….
….. a look behind where the path leading up to ‘The Hole in the Wall’ is clearly visible.
Once across the bridge we turn left and return to the tarmac lane we started out on earlier. As so often happens, by mid-afternoon the clouds have broken and thinned out and we walk back in sunny weather.
Grisedale Beck is way below us now, in the ravine to the left, as we walk back down the hill through the wooded area.
Just before we emerge onto the road once again I took a few shots from the grounds of Patterdale Cricket Club, this one looking across to Arnison Crag, followed by …..
….. a view looking over to Angletarn Pikes …..
….. and finally looking straight across at Place Fell. What a great spot for a cricket ground and a pity there wasn’t a match taking place. I’m not an ardent devotee of the game by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d have been quite happy to give it the occasional glance whilst sitting in a deck chair with a cup of tea, a cheese scone and a good book.
We emerge from the Grisedale lane out onto the road once again and make the short walk back to the car park. Visitors are enjoying their drinks in the pub garden, walkers are sauntering along the pavements, traffic keeps whizzing by and we’re off home for a cup of tea, unaccompanied by a cheese scone though because we haven’t got any. A good low level walk for a mostly grey and gloomy day and this morning’s irritation has dissipated, just as I hoped it would.