Walk date – 5th May 2019
Distance – 5.4 miles
Weather – cool with heavy cloud
Another Bank Holiday weekend arrives and the weather is back to how it usually is at such times. Gone is the southerly air flow and the warmth it brought with it and we’re back to cool and cloudy conditions once more. We had a couple of decent days last week, but they were spoken for as far as we were concerned so we couldn’t use them, and since then the weather has been rubbish. Anyway, we were supposed to have a reasonable morning today before it completely clouded over again in the afternoon so we decided to keep off the fells and just enjoy a gentle stroll around Buttermere before treating ourselves to lunch in one of the village hostelries. We weren’t late arriving but, as its a holiday weekend which has managed to coincide with the blooming of the Rannerdale bluebells, the parking areas were filling up rapidly and the village was already bustling with visitors. We paid for the privilege of parking alongside the Fish Inn from where we started our walk. Thanks to the heavy cloud the light was generally quite poor for photography so the shots taken during our walk are a bit on the gloomy side. That’s what I think anyway, J thinks they are dramatic and atmospheric so feel free to choose whichever interpretation you prefer.
Buttermere – Scale Bridge – Burtness Wood – Horse Close – Peggy’s Bridge – Gatesgarth – Muddocks – Hassness – Buttermere
We emerged from the parking area alongside the Fish Inn to find High Snockrigg nicely illuminated, behind the Croft House Cafe, thanks to a brief chink in the heavy cloud. The shot makes it seem as though the village is quiet but I had to wait for a gap in the general hustle and bustle before I could take it.
Walking down the path from the Fish Inn with Haystacks and the High Stile ridge ahead of us. Small chinks of blue sky would appear now and again and allow enough light to land on the slopes and brighten things up a little.
A view of Mellbreak across the field as we turn onto the path leading to Scale Bridge. The footbridge across Buttermere Dubs at the foot of Buttermere still hasn’t been replaced and there is a notice informing walkers of that on the gate to this field and that they should use the Scale Bridge route instead. Despite that we saw walkers returning from where the missing footbridge should have been, reading the notice on the gate and then taking the correct route. We’ve all done something similar I suppose, I know we have, usually because we’re talking and not concentrating on what we’re doing! The patch of blue sky to the west looked promising but that’s where it remained unfortunately.
Still walking the field path to Scale Bridge and a look behind us reveals the long ridge of Rannerdale Knotts, across the centre of the shot and, in the Rannerdale Valley behind, the vast swathes of bluebells may still be putting on a show despite flowering earlier than usual this year. Grasmoor looks to be getting a bit of sun but Whiteless Pike remains obscure under the cloud.
Scale Bridge, which we cross and then turn left onto the path which will take us back to where we should have been in the first place. This diversion doesn’t add much to the overall length of the walk but the path is always on the wet side. I still remember walking along it some years ago when it had turned into an ankle deep stream all the way over to Crummock Water. It wasn’t as bad as that today but it still had its moments.
Now we’re back to where we should have been crossing Buttermere Dubs to begin with. There was a notice close by which informed us that the bridge would be back in place in June. The pile of building materials beside the path indicates that something is on the cards so we’ll just have to wait and see if it actually happens.
We join the lakeshore path with a view over towards High Snockrigg. Plenty of walkers have been ahead of us and behind us on the watery path from Scale Bridge but at this point there was a parting of the ways. Some took the pitched path up through Burtness Wood making their way up to Red Pike, others kept to the path through Burtness Wood just a little higher than the lakeside one. We, along with a couple of others, dropped down and opted for the shoreline path.
From the lakeshore path a look back to the Grasmoor group of fells and that tantalising piece of blue sky stubbornly remaining out to the west. We keep hoping that it will eventually come our way and brighten things up a little but we were way too optimistic as things turned out.
The blue sky wouldn’t have made much difference through here though since the tree canopy is quite extensive. Its a very pleasant walk along here with a solid dry path underfoot and plenty of opportunity to leave it and drop down onto the shingle beaches for a paddle and a picnic. Quite a few people had perched themselves along the shoreline just to take a break, throw sticks for their dogs or just generally take in the views. Nobody was paddling or picnicking since it was definitely ‘keep your jacket on’ weather.
A little further on and our lakeshore path has joined forces with the one slightly above us and brings us out at this little shingle bay beyond which the path diverges once more. We take the left hand option which continues to hug the shoreline as it passes through the trees on the little headland in the centre of the shot. A zoom in will show it more clearly. The engineered path continues on through Burtness Wood.
From the same standpoint a retrospective view of Mellbreak and the blue sky beyond. Its beginning to look as though all the brighter weather will be hugging the west coast all day because it certainly isn’t coming this way at all.
Around the next bend and Fleetwith Pike comes into view. The rocky tops of Grey Knotts also appear just to the right of it.
Low Snockrigg, High Banks and Goat Crag across the ruffled waters of Buttermere
Hassness House nestles amongst the trees below Muddock Crags with the summit of Robinson on the skyline.
We’re approaching the end of the walk through Burtness Woods now and when we pass though the gate we’ll be walking through Horse Close and out in the open again. This was a very popular walk today and every time I stopped to take a shot along the path groups of walkers would appear so I kept having to wait until everyone had passed by and the route was clear again. However, there’s no need to rush as none of the pubs in Buttermere will start serving lunches until noon and that’s over two hours away, so we aren’t in any hurry.
Walking along Horse Close we stopped for a view up Comb Beck to High Stile. We’ve had many a cooling paddle in the beck after walking the High Stile ridge on hot summer days in years gone by. The inscription on the memorial seat is dedicated to a young man who died in 1995 when he was only nineteen years old. We always wonder if High Pike played some part in that given the location of the seat.
An impressive view of Fleetwith Pike, in sombre mood beneath the heavy cloud, as we continue along to the head of Buttermere.
A look back along Buttermere and the path as we reach another memorial seat just before we drop down to Peggy’s Bridge. Nobody leaves the path at the junction a few yards back to make their way up to Scarth Gap.
Looking straight along Warnscale Bottom as we drop down to the bridge across Warnscale Beck. The heather clad slopes of Fleetwith Pike on the left, Green Crag in the centre and Haystacks on the right makes them all look very dowdy, and just a little forbidding, in the low light.
The blue sky remains firmly anchored over in the west as I look back along Buttermere from Peggy’s Bridge. On the plus side at least, the thick haze of recent weeks has been banished, but on the minus side the light is so low that we still haven’t a great deal more clarity. Nevertheless its always a lovely look back.
A view of Green Crag and Haystacks looking upstream from the bridge.
Moving on from the bridge and another view of Fleetwith Pike as we make our way across to Gatesgarth Farm. The path up to the summit via that ridge is very steep although you do get a couple of mini breaks after each of the lower crests have been reached. We haven’t used that route for a good few years now, on the last occasion we had just reached the second crest when, out of nowhere, thunder began rumbling, the heavens opened and the rain came down in stair rods. We turned round and went straight back down again, being up high with the possibility of lightning crackling around you is not the safest of places to be.
Despite appearances to the contrary the clouds fail to dispose of their contents and even a hint of brightness appears above Haystacks and Scarth Gap …..
….. although things still look very dour along Warnscale Bottom.
A closer look at Haystacks …..
….. and then my attention was drawn to the merest hint of sunlight on the slopes below Seat and much greater clarity on the crags below its summit. Will we get a sunny afternoon?
The view back to High Crag as we walk between the fields heading for Gatesgarth Farm …..
….. and a zoom in for a closer look now that the cloud has thinned a little and the light is brighter.
A look over to High Stile and Dodd too, both of which have a little weak sunlight warming their tops.
Turning back to the path from the previous shot I noticed more sunlight breaking through and landing on the lower slopes of Haystacks so I quickly grabbed a shot. Get ’em while you can on a day like this because you never know if there’ll be another chance. I’ll go with J on ‘dramatic and atmospheric’ for this one. We’re almost at the farm now and I’m hoping that the refreshment van usually parked beside it will be there and open for business because we packed nothing to eat or drink, the reasoning being that because its a holiday weekend there will be lots of visitors so we could be sure it would be open. I hurry along to the end of the path, peer round the corner and seeing that the serving hatch flap is propped up turn back to J and give him the thumbs up. I even paid for the coffees and very good they were too. We sat at one of the picnic tables as we enjoyed the coffee and watched frantic motorists trying to find somewhere to park. The parking area across the road from the farm was full to bursting yet cars continued to pull in only to have to reverse back out again. Then they drove past the refreshment van into the farm access lane to try the extra parking facility in the area behind the farm but that was also full. Out they came again, stopping to shout across to the young lad manning the refreshment van and asking where they could park. He could only direct them back to Buttermere so off they went to try to find somewhere in the village. Good luck with that we thought as it was practically choc-a-bloc at just gone nine o’clock this morning and its just on eleven now. Meanwhile the van was doing brisk business, two more couples waiting to be served after us, then four cyclists arrived, rapidly followed by a procession of walkers in groups of varying sizes. Hardly anyone went straight past the van without buying something even though most people could walk round Buttermere without the need to eat or drink. Even if you weren’t fancying a coffee, tea, fizzy drink, bar of chocolate or a bag of crisps its amazing how much you do when a refreshment van comes into view.
Before we set off again after our coffee stop I tried to get a full frontal view of Fleetwith Pike but the area was so crowded with cars, cyclists and walkers that I gave up in the end and waited until we were a little further along the road to take this rather chopped off shot of it. Its better than nothing I suppose but its not the shot I had in mind.
A short section of road walking is unavoidable but it doesn’t last long. Its a busy road today though so it was necessary to keep ourselves well tucked in. The little group of sheep just ahead weren’t worried about tucking themselves in, they were more worried about not being able to get back in, and were peering longingly through the closed gate at their companions who were munching away happily in the field. We decided we’d open the gate slightly to let them back in but by the time we reached them they had skedaddled so we couldn’t help them.
A grand view of Burtness Comb, flanked by High Crag and High Stile, and good to have that little piece of blue sky adding a lovely touch of bright colour at last.
You can walk the road all the way back to Buttermere if you wish, but just up ahead there is also the opportunity to branch off again and take to the lakeside path. This rough path is often very wet, puddly and muddy but the white notice up ahead at the beginning of it declared that improvements are about to be made. About time too as it has always been something of a trial to get through. It begins just below Muddock Crags which are to the right of the shot with Goat Crag towards the left. I forgot about taking a shot of the notice at the time but there is one coming up soon.
Off the road and onto the Muddock path where I stopped to take a look back at the Buttermere Pines …..
….. and a look across to Burtness Comb where a striking display of light and shade caught my attention.
As I turned from the shore to regain the path I noticed this lovely moment of backlighting on the pines …..
….. within seconds though it had disappeared and all that remained was the hint of sun on the slopes behind.
Another notice at the end of the section which will be undergoing improvement very soon. The shot gives all the details so I won’t witter on about them other than to say that the alternative route will involve a little more road walking.
After the notice the path returns to normal and swings around the point towards Crag Wood. On the other side of the water Red Pike has appeared beyond High Stile and Dodd.
Another look back to the Haystacks skyline across the calmer waters of the little sheltered bay …..
….. and even though its a grey old day its still a very striking sight.
The view ahead as we walk the shingle beach towards Crag Wood …..
….. with a look back at the rugged skyline before the full view of it disappears.
Heavier cloud comes over and the lights are dimmed once again. We’ve also turned into the breeze so jackets are zipped up again, mostly to stop them flapping around and being a nuisance.
Mellbreak is back in view as we reach the footbridge over Hassnesshow Beck. We’re continually meeting walkers taking the clockwise route around the water.
Approaching the rock tunnel from where the usual yelps and cries are emanating as unsuspecting first time walkers blunder their way through the puddles and stumble against the rock walls. If you’ve never walked through it you might be grateful to have a phone light or a pocket torch handy.
A sunlit Red Pike and a shady Dodd through a gap in the trees.
High Stile, Red Pike and Dodd are silhouetted against the clouds, Burtness Wood cloaks the opposite shoreline and the breeze still ruffles the water.
The path meanders along just above the shore and again its very easy to drop down to the little beaches and spend a few moments just gazing around.
A final look back to Haystacks and High Crag where a little brightness still lingers.
The path continues along the lakeshore but its closed at the moment so we had to keep to the direct route back to Buttermere. There’s still a patch of blue above Lingcomb Edge but it looks as though the cloud is finally closing in over to the west.
We turn up the path back to the village and have a view of Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike ahead of us …..
….. and across the fields Sourmilk Gill makes its way down from Bleaberry Tarn which is hidden away up there in the deep corrie between High Stile and Dodd.
Buttermere village comes into view flanked by Mellbreak and Rannerdale Knotts as we cross the last field before the path leads us straight into …..
….. a very busy Syke Farm cafe. The cafe was full and had a queue and that empty bench was the only piece of unoccupied seating. The guy in the light blue jeans sitting at the white table was heartily tucking into a large slice of cake, the cyclist looked around for somewhere to prop the bike, and a couple of cars swung in only to have to swing right back out again as all the parking spots were taken. Busy, busy, busy.
We threaded our way back to The Fish Inn stepping aside smartly as the white cars on the left and right whooshed past hoping to find somewhere to park. We’re parked down towards the end of the right hand lane but take to the left hand one making for the entrance and our lunch. The pub was nicely busy, if you were the owner, but not so busy that you couldn’t find a table, if you were a customer. Its just about 12.30 so we found a table and plonked ourselves down. They didn’t do a regular Sunday roast so only their everyday menu was on offer but there was a decent amount of choice and we both finally plumped for the Steak and Mushroom Pot Pie with chips and, wait for it, salad! Now call me old fashioned if you wish but this trend of putting a dollop of salad on just about everything you order these days really irritates me. I love salads of any kind but, in my opinion and for my taste, they don’t sit well with any dish that has gravy on it. That apart, the pie, the pastry and the chips were excellent but a portion of carrots, cabbage, broccoli, peas, or indeed any vegetables but salad, would have been a far better accompaniment and just as healthy. As always, I treated the hot and cold portions of my meal as two different dishes and ate them completely separately. Anyone for lettuce, cucumber and tomato in gravy? What nonsense! I’ll get down from my high horse now and end by saying that by the time we’d finished our lunch and walked the few yards back to the car the clouds had completely closed ranks and there wasn’t a chink of blue to be seen anywhere. The afternoon had become even darker and duller so, as things turned out, we did have the best of the day’s weather for our leisurely Buttermere stroll. As always it was grand to be out walking again.