Walk Date – 31st May 2017
Distance – 10.3 miles
Weather – warm and sunny with a south westerly breeze
Another beautiful day dawned and not wanting to waste a minute of it by driving any great distance we drove just 9 miles from home over to Burnbanks at Haweswater Reservoir for today’s long walk over the grassy moorland terrain up to Low and High Raise, then down to the site of the Iron Age hill fort on Castle Crag, from where we would descend to the path running along the western side of Haweswater and then make our way back to Burnbanks. The recuperating foot was fine with the outward route, but, as usual, did not care much for the descent sections of the return route or the rockier parts of the shoreline path.
Burnbanks – Measand Beck – Measand End – Long Grain – Low Raise – High Raise – Low Raise – Whelter Crags – Birks Crag – Lady’s Seat – Castle Crag Hill Fort – Haweswater shore path – Burnbanks
There were no problems finding a space by the road side on the little lane just outside the village, only one car was parked there and that appeared to belong to one of the cottages opposite. Plenty of cars sped by us though as we were getting our packs out of the boot, on their way to Mardale Head presumably, so the parking area up there would have been quite busy today I guess. From the lane its just a very short walk to this familiar view at the entrance to the village. Here we walk up past the telephone box, then on through a short stretch of woodland and beyond that to the path which runs along the western shoreline of Haweswater.
As usual the path was full of puddles, one of which was jam-packed with these little tadpoles all busily darting hither and thither. Hopefully they will all reach maturity before their puddle dries up in this current spell of dry weather!
Half an hour’s pleasant walking along the tree lined path brings us to the deer gate, beyond which is …..
The information board telling you all about Haweswater – the water quarter.
Its a lovely morning for a water side walk, although there is a thin film of milky cloud which is damping down the lighting conditions a little and there’s a cooling breeze coming across the water.
We arrive at the footbridge across Measand Beck and turn right up the path alongside it. The trees beside the beck are all in leaf now so there was no chance of taking any shots of the lovely waterfalls in the beck today.
The Vengeance of the Bracken! Its tall and spindly at the moment so you can make out the path we are using, but in a few weeks it will have become taller and bushier and its fronds will arch themselves across the path to shake hands with their oppos on the other side, at which point walking such paths turns into a battle for the survival of the fittest. That, of course, assumes that you can find the start of a path, which you know is in there somewhere, to begin with.
The short but steepish climb alongside the beck eventually flattens out and its a convenient point to take a look across to Four Stones Hill.
The path leads us on to the footbridge crossing Measand Beck at Fordingdale Bottom. We don’t cross the bridge instead we take a left turn here to take the path leading from it up to …..
….. Measand End. It looks reasonable enough from this angle but it is quite steep in its initial stages. Oh well, at least its grassy and not rocky.
A pause during the ascent of Measand End for a view of Measand Beck meandering through Fordingdale Bottom, with Bampton Common, topped off by Low Kop, immediately behind it.
On the other side of us is Haweswater and, on the hazy eastern horizon, the Pennines.
Straight ahead of us the climb continues along the easy to follow track. The route has been so compressed over time, possibly by farm vehicles as well as walkers, that the bracken is largely unable to gain a foothold so the route remains clear to see and follow.
The gradient eases eventually and we reach a gentler incline above Lad Crags with this marvellous view along Haweswater. Somewhere on the other side of the water a cuckoo is calling out and inflicting its two note repertoire on us.
We made a small diversion to peer down over Lad Crags and view the small dark object in the bottom right of the picture.
A closer look at the small dark object in the previous shot which is an old survey pillar dating back to the 1930’s when the reservoir was under construction. There are similar ones on the fell sides on the opposite side of the reservoir.
From the same spot I took a look along Haweswater towards Mardale Head with Branstree on the left, Harter Fell on the right and the tree covered promontory of The Rigg below them. More milky cloud has robbed the view of some of it brightness, that kind of cloud was an occupational hazard at times today
Walking across Long Grain with its multitude of small pools and tarns and the beginnings of a view, at last, as Loadpot Hill starts to appear over on the right of the skyline. This isn’t a soggy squelchy area despite the numerous pools and underfoot the ground was firm and dry. Having said that some of the overnight dew was still clinging to the grass which occasionally would throw a cooling splash onto our legs as we walked over it. As we were both wearing shorts and not long trousers it didn’t matter at all, no soggy bottoms for us today!
We’re still walking over Long Grain but at last we have the beginnings of a view ahead of us. Up to this point all we have been able to see in front of us has been acres and acres of grass and, although we both enjoy moorland walking, after an hour of steadily walking uphill with nothing but grass in front of our noses we were keen, nay impatient even, to see something a little more interesting.
The path will soon curve round to the left above Bason Crag and lead us over to the cairn on Low Raise.
The view behind us as we continue crossing Long Grain. If you want to get away from the crowds this is a good place to come. On such a lovely day, and especially in half-term week, the more popular areas will no doubt be very busy, but up here we saw no-one at all.
Just a couple of hundred yards to go now before we reach the cairn on the broad flat top of Low Raise. The cairn has been in our sight for quite a while now thanks to the clear conditions, but this is a lonely and largely featureless place and it would be easy to go astray when the cloud is down.
The ancient tumulus and cairn on Low Raise set in isolation on the extensive grassy top. Its such a huge pile of stones and rocks and sited in a very unremarkable position so you begin wonder why it was put here in the first place. On the skyline we are just beginning to see the distant fells to the north and west of us.
From this side of the cairn we can see High Raise immediately behind it on the centre skyline.
The view eastwards to the Pennines as we leave the cairn and begin to walk over to High Raise.
We make a steady ten minute tramp across the open moorland over to High Raise.
On our right we have a view of some of the distant northern fells. Skiddaw, Blencathra and Carrock Fell, from left to right on the hazy skyline, being the most easily identifiable ones.
On our left is the Nan Bield Pass between Harter Fell, on the left, and Mardale Ill Bell, on the right, beyond which there is nothing much to be seen thanks to the hazy condtions. Running down across the middle foreground is the eastern ridge of Kidsty Pike.
A longer view of the previous shot and now we can see High Street over on the right with the grassy slopes of Kidsty Pike just in front and to the left of it.
After a break and something to eat, out of the breeze in the High Raise summit shelter, we had a look around for a while. This view shows Wether Hill and Loadpot Hill beyond the cairn with just the tiniest smidge of Ullswater showing below them.
A few views from the rock strewn summit of High Raise, not pin sharp, thanks to the haze, but Dove Crag, Hart Crag and Fairfield can be identified easily enough running across the middle of the shot from the centre across to the right.
On the centre skyline is the Helvellyn range with the pointy top of Catstye Cam showing up well.
To the right of Catstye Cam are The Dodds and Clough Head.
Completing the panorama are Skiddaw, Blencathra and Carrock Fell.
Looking north towards Penrith beyond which the flatter lands have virtually disappeared into the haze.
Even though the conditions were not very favourable I chanced a close up shot over towards Striding Edge and Catstye Cam, its not the greatest of shots but the best that I could manage today, and …..
….. likewise for this close up of Fairfield and the Cofa Pike ridge. Great Gable has also managed to sneak into the top right corner without me noticing.
Pretty much straight across from us is the huge bulk of High Street which was attracting plenty of walkers today. If you zoom in you might be able to spot some of them.
A rather better view of Kidsty Pike now that it is silhouetted against the dark crags of Mardale Ill Bell. It doesn’t look very pike like from this viewpoint but from the cairn on the summit there’s a stomach churning drop straight down into Riggindale.
We’ve had a good look around so its time we were getting under way again, but before we go a look back at the summit shelter and cairn, with a little piece of High Street just behind them.
A build up of cloud dappling the broad expanse of Harter Fell on our right as we make our way back to Low Raise.
Retracing our steps back down to Low Raise …..
….. with this view of the Gatescarth Pass between Branstree and Harter Fell over to our right. We could also see the old survey pillar on Tarn Crag behind Branstree on the left. If you zoom in close enough you might just be able to see it too.
So far its an easy grassy walk from Low Raise down its south east ridge and little by little the views of Haweswater become more and more impressive.
As we lose height Kidsty Pike summit, just to the right of centre, begins to stand out more clearly and, now that it is sheltering us from the breeze, we are enjoying a spell of very warm afternoon sunshine which is absolutely lovely to be out in.
Across the middle foreground are the craggy sides of Rough Crag. The ground we are walking across is gradually becoming rougher underfoot, broken here and there by peat hags of varying depth and width. Some could be easily stepped over others required a detour to get around them.
Walking above Whelter Crags now and looking ahead at our route towards Birks Crag, Lady’s Seat and Castle Crag.
A close up of the previous shot showing the shattered face of Birks Crag, nearest the camera, in the shade behind it is Lady’s Seat, and, in the sunshine a little to the left of Lady’s Seat, is Castle Crag.
A derelict building, maybe once a shepherd’s bothy, comes into view as we reach the crest of Birks Crag and continue our descent. This looks as though its still a straightforward and continuous grassy slope but increasingly it is fractured by rough outcrops and stony layers, none of which are apparent until you are standing immediately above them.
On our right is this view of Kidsty Howes which has a similar type of terrain to the one we’re descending.
A lovely view of Haweswater in the afternoon sunshine as we cross over from Birks Crag to Lady’s Seat. We stood here for quite a few minutes just drinking it all in.
A look back at the descent from Birks Crag. There were bits and pieces of a path here and there but for the most part it was a case of threading your way down through the layers by any route which took your fancy. Needless to say the recuperating foot does not take kindly to being jolted about from one level and from one angle to another, so it was a case of choosing the best grassy route in order to keep it comfortable.
Another look back, this time as we make the short climb over to the top of Lady’s Seat.
From Lady’s Seat we have a superb view along Haweswater and down to the strategically sited Iron Age hill fort on Castle Crag.
A closer look at the cairn marking the site of the hill fort. I dropped down from Lady’s Seat and made my way over to the top of Castle Crag but it was too steep a climb for the now aching foot to deal with so it missed out on the views.
A look behind me at the tree covered promontory of The Rigg as I reached the top of Castle Crag. Behind it the road leading along to Mardale Head provided me with occasional glints from car windows as walkers began the return drive to civilisation after their walks across the Mardale fells.
Standing on the site of the ancient hill fort which has this commanding view along Haweswater. Here’s a link if you would like to know a little more about the fort –
J (and the aching foot) waiting patiently for me to come back down again. I think I’m looking down into one of the ditches which were dug around this side of the fort, there was no need to protect the other side as you’ll see shortly. Lady’s Seat is the tree lined hill nearest the camera with Birks Crag the next one along.
A view of Whelter Crags and the bowl shaped Whelter Bottom from the hill fort cairn.
The top of Castle Crag is long but quite narrow so, presumably, the ancient fort would not have been a huge structure capable of holding a large number of people. However many people it held they certainly had a commanding view of everything, and everyone, around them from a virtually unassailable position.
After a quick scramble down from the fort we now have to make it down through the gap between Lady’s Seat and Castle Crag to that enclosed stand of trees below us.
The steepness of the slope makes for a very careful descent and it also becomes clear why those early fort builders didn’t need to bother digging defensive ditches on this side. Its hard enough to walk down safely, having to fight your way up against a force determined to prevent you wouldn’t be something to look forward to, would it?
As I said, virtually unassailable.
Fortunately the bracken wasn’t yet high enough to impede our progress to any great extent, the greater hazards were the loose stones and rocks lurking amongst it. Once we were safely down to the trees we had a short stop to give the knees chance to return to something like normal.
Of course, now that we are down at the bottom we are completely enclosed by the fell sides surrounding us and its as hot as hell’s kitchen down here. Its a shame about the deep shadows but there was absolutely nothing I could do to avoid them.
From the stand of trees it was just a short walk over to the shoreline path, where it crossed one of the little becks flowing out of Whelter Bottom, and where we stopped for a fruit juice re-fuelling. Just before I took this shot a solo lady walker came towards us and on seeing the beck knelt down, cupped her hands and thoroughly soaked her head, face and neck with handful after handful of water, so much so that I almost expected to see steam rising from her head. We had a little chat once she had finished cooling herself down and she told us she had walked a long way from Patterdale and still had a long way to get to Shap. I didn’t ask her directly but I assumed that she was doing the Coast to Coast walk as I couldn’t think of any other reason for walking the fifteen and a half miles between the two locations, especially as you can get from one to the other quite easily by bus.
We have a ten minute break by the beck before starting out again, by which time the coast to coast lady was out of sight and well on her way to Burnbanks and on to Shap. We only have to walk back to Burnbanks, almost three miles ahead of us, and that’s quite far enough in this heat and after an already long walk, so we hoist on our packs, cross the bridge over Whelter Beck and start the long trek back.
A look back to check on how the foot is holding up and for a shot of the view before it goes out of sight.
Its getting on for four o’clock but the sun is still as hot as ever, the cooling breeze off the water which we had this morning has vanished and with the sun at our backs it turned into a very warm walk back to Burnbanks.
We eventually lose our view of the water as the path winds along between the trees and the slopes of the fell sides. The views are therefore very limited along here which I thinks is such a shame when you could be enjoying views across the water. However, United Utilities seems determined to keep everyone as far away from it as they can and I can understand their reasoning, it is after all a reservoir providing drinking water and they don’t want people bathing and boating, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to provide a few views of it at intervals along the path.
The very welcome sight of the bridge across Measand Beck and a view of the dam wall at the far end of the reservoir tell us that Burnbanks isn’t too far away, so we keep calm, keep sweating and keep carrying on.
We’re back at the deer gate, another indication that Burnbanks is getting nearer, as is …..
….. the proximity of the dam wall which suddenly appears as we round a corner, and at last …..
….. we reach Burnbanks, which is baking in the hot sun and completely silent apart from the low murmurings of the two walkers taking a break in the shade of the tree beside the red ‘phone box. I think our legs have just enough left in them to make it round the corner to the end of the lane and back to the car. A longer walk than usual today, but when the weather is as good as this you just have to make the most of it, don’t you?