Blelham Tarn and Wray Castle

Walk date – 13th March 2020

Distance – 3.9 miles

Weather – mostly cloudy but plenty of sunny spells, very little wind

It has rained every day during this past week and was doing so again this morning. However by late morning things were looking promising so after an early lunch we drove over to Ambleside and then headed off towards Low Wray and Wray Castle. Our main aim was to take a stroll around Blelham Tarn which we’ve never visited before and, with the weather still being unreliable, a short enough ramble should the rain start pelting down again. It was a mostly cloudy afternoon but there were enough breaks in the cloud to provide some frequent sunny spells, and best of all it didn’t rain while we were out. Last week’s rain has undone the effects of the drier weather the week before so we were back to mud and clag on the return leg of the walk but there is a decent laid path to begin so we stayed dry and clean shod for the outward leg. This is a lovely little walk, mostly on the level, but after crossing Blelham Beck, at the head of the tarn, the track rises up a hillside and after we passed through a squeeze stile by a stone barn the rest of the walk continued over field paths, muddy ones today. None of it is strenuous and the views towards the Fairfield Horseshoe and the fells above Scandale were a lovely little bonus.


Wray Castle – Blelham Tarn – High Tock How – Hole House – Windermere shore path – Wray Castle

Being unwilling to shell out a handful of £1 coins to park the car in Wray Castle’s car park for a couple of hours we made do with roadside parking instead. There isn’t much of it to be had along these narrow back lanes but there were few people around today so we managed to tuck ourselves in without any difficulty. From there it was just a short walk back down the road towards the gatehouse at the entrance to Wray Castle.

A view towards Scandale as we walk on past the gatehouse and drop down the road towards the little bridge over Blelham Beck …..

….. and a view across the fields of the Langdale Pikes, Sergeant Man and High Raise. The path we’re heading for is the one curving around behind the sheep and it keeps company with the road for a short distance before branching off towards the tarn.

Almost immediately after crossing the bridge we take a left turn through a gate onto the laid track alongside the hedge. Once clear of the hedge I took a look over towards the Fairfield Horseshoe.

A closer look at the previous view where Fairfield, Hart Crag and Dove Crag are still holding onto some snow but nothing much of it to be seen over the lower fells on either side.

At the gate we take the left hand path with the smoke grey Coniston Fells just beginning to appear ahead of us, low cloud hiding their summits every now and again.

A lovely sunny spell brightens everything up as we walk through the fields where I took a look back at an equally sunny Wansfell.

The bright sunlight made it impossible to take any shots along the length of the tarn so the best that could be managed was this shot of Latterbarrow on the opposite side of it.

The sunny spells came and went as the cloud drifted across which made for a pleasant walk through the parkland.

The track does not hug the tarn so it is quite difficult to get close to it. Its more of a field tarn than a mountain tarn so the edges tend to be very marshy and full of reeds. There is also a fence all the way around it which prevents an unwary traveller or animal wandering into it.

We reach the footbridge across another little beck feeding into the tarn.

I moved away from the path for a better view of the tarn but this was about as far as it was possible to go without getting some seriously wet boots.

From the same spot a view of a still sunny Wansfell over to the north east of us.

The clouds in that direction provided some dramatic and fascinating cloudscapes.

J’s getting very good at striking a pose beside all the gates we meet on our walks.

A look back at the tarn, and another cloudscape, as we begin to reach the head of it.

The view along Blelham Tarn as we walk round the head of it. Ill Bell and Yoke are just peeping up on the skyline behind the far hillside.

Crossing Blelham Tarn’s feeder beck …..

….. and a look back to the same point as we begin to climb the hillside.

The views behind us really begin to open up as we continue to climb the hill. Snowy Fairfield at the head of the horseshoe on the left, and a view into Scandale with the two tops of Little Hart Crag just visible to the left of Red Screes on the extreme right.

Still climbing the hillside with a view of Wansfell beyond Blelham Tarn. We had another sunny and very warm spell of sunshine as we walked up here which would have been very enjoyable had we not been wearing winter weight trousers, fleece mid-layers and insulated winter jackets, all of which helped to create a good head of steam in both of us. I never thought it would be this warm today or I would have brought my brow mopping cloth. The sun is beginning to throw out a lot more heat now that we’re a couple of weeks into March but its also the time of year when the weather is still changeable and it becomes difficult to decide just what gear to wear and we usually get it wrong. We make do with unzipping our jackets.

The laid track continues for a good way up the hillside but …..

….. at this appropriately named squeeze stile, opposite a stone barn, it disappears and soggy ground takes over. Keeping a firm footing while going uphill on wet and muddy ground is tricky so a bit of slip-sliding followed.

Ah well, we might have chosen the wrong clothing but at least we’re on the right track for High Tock How Farm.

A storm damaged, and very well weathered, tree trunk which, with a big and sturdy enough rubber band, could be put to good use as a catapult should the need ever arise. Strange what daft things come into your head sometimes as you wander around the hills and dales letting your imagination take charge. Its better than getting in a tizzy over trivia though I suppose.

Another cloudscape to gaze at as we reach the top of the hill. Below the clouds are Red Screes on the left, St Raven’s Edge with a snowy Caudale Moor right behind it, across the middle, and Wansfell over on the right. A view almost guaranteed to lift the spirits.

From the top of the hill we follow the muddy track which drops us down to High Tock How Farm whose occupants must have one of the best views in the Lake District with layers of fells in every direction they care to look, and to illustrate the point a little more …..

….. here’s another view of some of what they have on offer from their rear windows. What a fabulous view they have.

From the farm we turned right down the drive and followed the lane down to Hole House. You can follow the road all the way back to Wray Castle but it does take you away from the tarn, and treading the tarmac can often be an uninteresting trek. Instead we bear left towards the house even though it appears as though you are about to trespass through someone’s front garden. Be bold …..

….. and keep to the track as it passes in front of the house and then …..

….. after a few more steps it leads you to this step stile and back onto the field paths again ……

….. where you get to see all those fabulous views all the way back. Its a whole lot better than walking along a tarmac road despite the muddiness. Its not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Just behind the tree line across the middle of the shot is the sprawl of Loughrigg Fell with the Fairfield Horseshoe right behind it.

A little further along there were fewer trees which provided an opportunity for a clearer close up of the horseshoe all the way round from Nab Scar, over to Heron Pike, Erne Crag, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Mirk Cove, Hart Crag, Dove Crag, High Rigg and Low Rigg. Its a very long time since we walked the complete horseshoe, probably more than ten years, although we have walked sections of it since then. Perhaps its time to have another go at it on one of those lovely long summer days that we’re going to get this year, said she, more in hope than expectation!

Meanwhile we carry on with our walk and drop down to a little gate beside a stream, pass through it and then  …..

….. continue along to this low grassy knoll with its cluster of oak trees. We keep to the left of the knoll and carry on across the fields and the woodland.

We eventually arrive at a wicket gate beside this clapper bridge which we cross and then head up the hill ahead of us.

Another look over to the horseshoe as we make our way across the fields back to a gate beside the road. When we reach the road we turn left and …..

….. pass by the Old Vicarage at Wray. That sounds a bit like a good title for a murder mystery novel, sort of Agatha Christie style.

A look across Blelham Tarn to the Coniston Fells as we walk back the short distance to Wray Castle. It hasn’t looked at all bright over those fells all the time we’ve been out. When we were almost back at the entrance drive to Wray Castle we turned right onto a bridleway and walked down towards Lake Windermere.

After a few hundred yards or so we reach the signpost and pass through the gate heading for the path on the shoreline leading over to Wray Castle. I take a shot of J as he goes through the gate …..

….. and then he sees me with the camera as he holds the gate and prepares to pose once again. What’s the name of that show again, Caught on Camera?

Turning onto the lakeshore path alongside Windermere and we’ve seen the last of the sun for the day. The views became quite dull as we passed by one of Windermere’s many boathouses.

The view from the other side of the boathouse …..

….. followed by a walk along the shoreline where the winter weight clothing did a grand job of keeping out the draughts. Its certainly a changeable time of the year as we slowly emerge from winter to spring.

A look back as we reach the top of the steps leading up to Wray Castle, the path down at the bottom has no steps and also leads up to it.

The back door of Wray Castle …..

….. and the much grander front entrance. It has no history as a ‘real’ castle it was simply a private house built in the Gothic Revival style in 1840 by a retired surgeon, one Dr. James Dawson, from Liverpool and who used his wife’s considerable inheritance to do so. Apparently she took one look at it when it was finished, finding it something of a monstrosity by all accounts, and subsequently refused to live in it. All he had to do was discuss with her the design of any house they were going to live in and come up with something that they both liked. But Victorian chaps didn’t do that sort of thing because they knew best, only he didn’t. What a waste of time, money and effort particularly as the views from the terrace are stunning …..

….. from the Langdale Pikes, Sergeant Man and High Raise …..

….. round to the Fairfield Horseshoe …..

….. and over to Scandale and Red Screes, together with rolling parkland and lovely woodlands. Dr Dawson seems to have been quite a dunderpate, to use a word he would probably have known and understood. Wray Castle is now owned by the National Trust with prices to match.

After a very nice cup of tea at the Wray Castle cafe, which was just about to close, we made our way down the entrance drive and as we passed St Margaret’s Church on the way back to the car I walked a little way down the drive for a shot of it. It too was built by Dr.Dawson, in the same style as his castle in 1856, for the spiritual benefit of his family, estate workers, servants, retainers and friends. It was consecrated in 1861 but it is no longer open for worship and is now owned privately. We couldn’t look round it as a notice at the entrance stated that it was closed today. Well, here endeth another short walk and very nice it has been too. Its no great distance and there’s nothing strenuous about it so we’ve only sauntered along and had a very leisurely couple of hours just enjoying the better weather and the fabulous views. Apart from a couple of folk leaving the cafe as we arrived and the girl who served us with the tea we’ve seen no-one at all. Given the current situation though that’s hardly surprising I suppose.