Walk Date – 22nd September 2016
Distance – 8.5 miles
Weather – sunny and dry with a strong cool wind
By ‘eck, it ain’t half chilly up here. When I got out of the car to open the gate into the parking area at the top of the road out of Coniston I was almost blown over by the cold north westerly wind hurtling down the Walna Scar road. After a quick scramble into the boot to get out the flask of coffee and a pair of long trousers from my pack it was back into the car for a while to savour the hot coffee, and to change my three quarter length pants for the long, and hopefully warmer, ones. Thankfully the car park wasn’t very busy but it was still a bit like trying to get out of a wet swimsuit on the beach whilst hoping that you don’t drop the towel you’re holding around yourself as you do so.
Anyway, I digress as usual, and having completed my sartorial rearrangements and adding a couple of extra layers on the upper body we’re good to go. Its a beautiful day but at the moment it is very cool and windy, still once we get going up the Walna Scar road we should start to warm up nicely. Before we start I take these two shots from the parking area alongside this pool and then off we go on our way to Dow Crag.
I considered getting the gloves out of my pack as we walked along but finally compromised by keeping my hands behind my back so that they were out of the wind and in the warmth of the sun. Straight ahead of us is Coniston Old Man and we’ll be up there on the summit a little later on in the walk.
This is Boo Tarn, very overgrown and with hardly any water. All we could see was that little puddle over there.
On we go along the Walna Scar road passing through rock cutting number one.
A little further along and we come to rock cutting number two which provides us with an encouraging view of the Dow Crag ridge.
Further along the road we cross this bridge, which seems to be known by several names, Cove Bridge, Torver Bridge, Torver Beck Bridge, none of which appear on the OS map, so I can’t give a definitive name for it. They all seem to fit though, to the right of it behind the hillock where the track begins to curve is an area known as The Cove. Its crossing a beck which ends up in Torver, and if you take an immediate left turn after crossing the bridge the path leads you back down to Torver, a little village just a few miles south of Coniston.
This is one of those days when, by the time you have the camera out, the scene which was in brilliant sunshine has turned into one of gloom, and in this case, even one of menace as the towering east face of Dow Crag is temporarily covered by cloud. The strong wind is moving the clouds along very quickly, and from time to time, when we get a little shelter from it and there’s no cloud over us, it becomes encouragingly warm. At the moment though those moments are few and far between and our noses are getting plenty of running practice. I’ve got so many tissues stuffed into my pockets my trousers are starting to look like jodhpurs.
This is the area known as The Cove. In the bowl shaped shaded area above the sunlit U shape in the middle of the shot is Goat’s Water. The dip on the skyline beyond is known as Goat’s Hawse and to the left of it is Dow Crag. Over on the right is Coniston Old Man.
The cloud stayed away long enough to get a better shot of Coniston Old Man. The scarring and spoil heaps you can see on the flanks are the result of human activity in the quest to dig out whatever minerals could be found there.
We’re approaching Brown Pike, the high craggy fell to the right of the shot, and when we reach the appropriate point we’ll turn off the main path and take a short diversion to visit Blind Tarn. We and the walker with the light coloured pack ahead of us kept leapfrogging each other along here. As we stopped to take a photo he would go past us and then we would catch him up again. It wasn’t that we were walking very quickly, simply that he was walking quite slowly. He stopped to chat a couple of times telling us that he was out of practice and was having to take his time. He also mentioned that as a young man he used to run up this route but that it was so long ago he could hardly remember his running days. Whether you run or walk, go quickly or take your time is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned, just get out there and enjoy what’s around you, whatever it happens to be.
We’re gaining height so we have a better view across The Cove and into the bowl shaped hollow which contains Goat’s Water. The former quarrying activity also stands out a little better now.
The flanks of Coniston Old Man looking as though some giant teeth have been taking bites out of them.
A look back along the long and winding Walna Scar road with just a hint of Coniston Water beyond it.
At this point we’ve turned off the main path which is the greyish strip down there to the right of the shot. We’re walking up an old path used by miners to reach their mining area which is a little way behind where I’m standing. In the dip to the left of the path is a beck, you can’t see it because it is just below the surface but you certainly can hear it bubbling and gurgling down as you walk along the path. I think this is probably the water flowing out of Blind Tarn.
From the same spot I turn around for a view of the path ahead, we are sheltered from the wind along here and we’re in full sun so things started to warm up nicely. I could still hear the water gurgling away in the grassy dip to the right.
We turn the corner and begin to walk alongside the massive spoil heaps on the pleasant grassy path with only the sheep and the ravens for company. Everyone else has been left behind on the Walna Scar road and will still be making their way up to the top of the pass.
The path turns another corner and the Dow Crag ridge comes into sight. We thought about taking the lower route which would have brought us out at the edge of the tarn but decided to keep going up so we could have a look at the old mine workings as well as Blind Tarn.
We round the final corner and there below us is Blind Tarn, so named, apparently, because it doesn’t have an obvious outflow point.
As you can see the tarn sits on a little shelf below the Dow Crag ridge and since we were in sunshine and out of the wind we decided to have a ten minute break here and just sit and enjoy the views, and listen to the chatter coming down to us from the walkers on the ridge above.
This is our chosen spot for a break so now for today’s ‘technical challenge’ – finding a suitable stone on which to perch. It was trickier than you might think, after all there are thousands of lumps of stone, but as they’ve all been chucked down the slope in a slithery heap the minute you sat on one it began to slide away beneath you, followed by several of its mates following right behind it and heading straight for the small of your back. We are made of strong stuff though and soon got things sorted so that packs could come off, drinks could come out and we could sit and have ten minutes enjoying the views and the sunshine.
After our break we climbed a well trodden path through the spoil heaps up to the mining area on an upper level and spent a good few minutes examining the site.
I walked up there to what seemed to be one of the mine adits, a deep dark tunnel which I didn’t venture into beyond the very beginning of it, as some of these old workings can be quite dangerous to go into. I had to step well back to take this shot otherwise all you would have been looking at would be a photo of dark nothingness.
There are quite a number of derelict buildings up here so it must have been a busy place once upon a time. The miners certainly had a grand view of Coniston Water if they took their dinner break outside in the summer. From this area another good path kept to the same level going in the direction of the Walna Scar road so we used that to pick up our original route once more.
The path leads back to the Walna Scar road at a point just below the ridge so we didn’t have a great deal more climbing to do from this point.
A few minutes later and we are at the path junction at the top of the Walna Scar road with a view of Harter Fell on the left and the Scafells over on the right. There’s still a lot of heavy cloud about and now we are getting the full force of the cold wind, that ten minute break in the sunshine is fast becoming a distant memory as we put the windproofs back on.
Below us is the path junction which we reached from the path going down to the left. Going straight ahead at the junction leads eventually to Seathwaite, in Dunnerdale not the one in Borrowdale, and taking the path to the left leads over to the fell known as White Maiden. We took the right hand turn which brings us to this cairn on the way up to Brown Pike.
We didn’t linger on Brown Pike, although a few hardier souls than us had downed packs and had their lunch boxes out. I’m not keen on eating my sandwiches under grey skies in a howling wind, apart from that its only just gone noon so we’re not really hungry yet.
The view along the ridge as we leave Brown Pike and head off towards Dow Crag. We’re under a big grey cloud and in the teeth of a perishingly cold wind so the hoods of our jackets are put up and pulled tight in an attempt to keep the battering to a minimum.
A view down to Blind Tarn as we walk along the ridge.
A little further along and now we can see Blind Tarn again and the mining area above it. The little patch of green in the middle of the spoil heaps is where we had our break. Just above it are the derelict mine buildings behind which you may just be able to make out the path we used to return to the Walna Scar road. Rising above all of it are the slopes and summit of Brown Pike.
Another look back as we progress along the ridge having just crossed over Buck Pike on the right of the shot.
We still have a lot of heavy cloud above us which, together with the wind, is keeping the temperature down for the time being. Looking back over the estuary and out over the sea I notice that once this band of cloud moves away there doesn’t seem to be any more coming our way, so perhaps we’ll get a decent bit of sunshine before much longer. The fell in the distance to the right of the shot is Black Combe. AW didn’t include that fell in his initial series of guide books but it is included in his later guide ‘The Outlying Fells of Lakeland’ which he stated was produced ‘primarily for old age pensioners and others who can no longer climb the high fells.’ Given that Black Combe is 1970′ above sea level and that there are 84 fells lower that that in his regular guide books I fail to understand his reasoning. Not only that but there are quite a few outlying fells which require quite a bit more than the ability to gently potter around the foothills with a tube of Deep Heat in your backpack.
A rather dour looking Coniston Water but there’s plenty of brightness over the sea. I’m wishing it would hurry up and get here because its mighty chilly up here at the moment.
We’ve reached the part of the ridge where the craggy east face of Dow Crag becomes more apparent, the grassy slopes we saw below us further back have given way to jagged rocks and beyond the rocks in the foreground is one very steep drop. Across the valley on the lower slopes of Coniston Old Man is the path leading up to Goat’s Water.
Looking ahead along Dow Crag which, in common with many of the Lakeland fells, has a steep and forbidding front face and yet has a back slope which presents no danger whatsoever. If you don’t like looking down into steep drops you can simply move a few yards to the side and feel as safe as houses. Of course, if you did so and weren’t looking where you were going you might trip over a stone but that would be down to sheer gormlessness, wouldn’t it?
The views down become more dramatic as we get nearer the summit. This is the view down to Goat’s Water with the path running alongside it and continuing on up to the col at Goat’s Hawse. I stopped for a foot spa treatment there once as we descended on a boiling hot day and the water was so cold I thought my feet were about to fall off. Once the socks and boots were back on my feet continued to tingle, as my circulation fought its way back to normality, all the way down to the Walna Scar road.
One of the many gullies on the east face of Dow Crag. They do have names but identifying which is which from above is difficult. Looking straight at them from below would make it easier to identify each one, something you would need to do if you were planning to climb up one. There are plenty of rock climbing web sites giving information about what’s what on these crags but its not something I will ever be taking advantage of. I enjoy looking down them though and I think this one is the top of Easy Gully. Easy compared with what, K2?
Another gully and another opportunity for your innards to turn cartwheels. I think this one is Great Gully.
Approaching Dow Crag Summit.
“Are you going right to the top?”
A summit photo of someone who wasn’t going to go right to the top, but then changed his mind and followed me up. Its still blowing a hooley as demonstrated by the hair, but at least its sunny.
Yours truly on Dow Crag.
We came down off the summit rocks and headed in the direction of the path down to Goat’s Hawse. On the way I took this shot looking down to the hawse and the path going up the fellside to Coniston Old Man. As we walked along we were on the lookout for a suitable place out of the wind where we could stop and have something to eat.
Here’s the view we had from the spot we decided on for our break. It wasn’t totally out of the wind but placing our packs behind us gave us a bit of additional shelter. In any case, watching the clouds skim over the Scafells was worth the small amount of discomfort we had to put up with. The cloud is beginning to break up too, an encouraging sign of better things to come.
Descending from Dow Crag after our stop and I took a look back at the weathered crags plummeting down towards Goat’s Water. How those two guys perched up there could enjoy eating their sandwiches in the biting wind I couldn’t imagine. They were there when we arrived on the summit and now that we are leaving they are still there, and still eating. Well, one thing’s for sure, their packs will be a lot lighter on the next part of their journey.
Heading down to Goat’s Hawse from where we’ll take the path up to Coniston Old Man, the summit of which is just out of shot on the right.The grassy fell which is more or less in the middle of the shot is Brim Fell which we’ll walk back to from the Old Man.
Jacket hoods go on again as we descend to the hawse under an enormous lump of cloud. Despite that we cling on to the fact that the blue bits in between are getting larger and its going to be a nice afternoon. Isn’t it?
Still a little way to go before we are down at the hawse, but the sun is out and we have a good view towards the summit of Coniston Old Man.
Down at Goat’s Hawse and a view of Grey Friar in the middle of the shot. Behind it on the left are the Scafells while over on the right are Great Carrs, with a summit shadow, and Swirl How.
On the other side of the hawse is Goat’s Water and Dow Crag. We’re sheltered from the wind at the moment, the sun is out, the sky is blue, and how about this for a fantastic view. Will you cut out the feeble poetry please and get on with it?
You know that saying “Be careful what you wish for”? I wished all morning for some sunshine and here it is, just at the point when we start to climb again and where a little cloud cover would have been helpful. There’s just no pleasing some folk is there?
The rather grand cairn and shelter on the summit of Coniston Old Man. A couple of hundred yards further back from here I was stopped by a man and woman who were looking somewhat puzzled as they pored over a map. They asked me if I knew how they could get to the Coniston Youth Hostel. I was a bit taken aback by this rather unusual request, generally folk are wanting to know how to get to a particular fell, and as we live here I don’t have any reason to know the exact location of YHA’s in the area. I told them I didn’t know where the YHA in Coniston was, so would they be able to find it if I showed them the route back down to Coniston. Yes, was the reply, we know how to find it once we’re in the village, its just that we aren’t sure how to get back to the village from here. They were heading towards Brim Fell so I suggested they continued on to Levers Hawse, take the right hand path at the Hawse down to Levers Water and then follow the path back to Coniston. I could have directed them back via the Brim Fell Rake, the route we would be using for our return, but thought the Levers Water route would be more straightforward for them. Off they went looking quite a lot happier so I hope they reached their destination without getting in a muddle again.
A dizzying view down to Low Water and, to the right of it, one of the paths leading up to the summit of Coniston Old Man. The other tarn is Levers Water to where I had just directed the two puzzled walkers. I wondered why at this point they hadn’t just turned round from the Old Man summit and gone back down by the same route as they’d come up, now why didn’t I think to ask them that before directing them to Levers Hawse? What a dimbo thing to do!
Its still very windy but its whole lot warmer now that the cloud has gone.
A couple of minutes leaning on the wall before we set off again.
From the trig point a look ahead to where we are off to from here. Just keep to the path an you’ll eventually fetch up at Brim Fell.
We have a few minutes of easy walking along this broad ridge towards Brim Fell summit.
In hardly any time at all we reach the familiar beehive shaped cairn which marks Brim Fell summit. We walk a few yards further on heading for the north east cairn where we will turn down to the right and descend via Brim Fell Rake.
The view of Levers Water as we make our way down. The path doesn’t go straight down, it simply meanders this way and that, rounding the craggy bits and gently descending over Brim Fell’s mostly grassy slopes.
A look back up at our descent route so far. It looks as though the path takes you straight to the foot of those crags up there but it turns to the right before it reaches them and leads you on up a grassy rake. Its a very nice route and its much better than descending down to Low Water by the path from the Old Man summit, which is rough underfoot and always has lots of people trudging up and down it. We met no-one on this route.
Before continuing on the grassy path down to Low Water we had a quick nip over to Raven Tor, where a splash of sunshine illuminated the cairn very nicely. Behind it and in shadow on the centre skyline is Swirl How, over on the right skyline and also in shadow is part of Wetherlam.
A brighter view of Coniston Water than we had earlier on. The fellsides behind us are sheltering us from the wind which together with the warmth of the sun made this a very pleasant part of the day.
Back on the path down to Low Water which is very easy on the feet, while on the other side of the tarn is the path up to the Old Man summit which definitely isn’t.
It was really lovely walking down here this afternoon and we’re savouring the softness of the path while we can. Once we’re down at the tarn we’ll be hitting the hard stuff again. Hard stuff as in rocks and stones I mean, not the hard stuff which comes in bottles.
Here we are, on the hard stuff, the mine path, which can be a bit trying in places. Its not difficult its just so darned hard underfoot and a bit awkward in the sections where the stones have been placed upended rather than flat. We stop for a minute or so to take in this view of Wetherlam across the Coppermines Valley.
Behind us are the remains of the copper mining and slate quarrying industries. Huge gashes in the hill sides, spoil heaps everywhere you look, rusting machinery and pipework all over the ground and old mining paths going hither and thither all across the site. It looks very messy but there’s something about this place which makes you forget all the despoilation as you try to imagine how it must have looked when it was being worked. I do hope ‘they’ never decide to have a tidy up.
Looking ahead from the same spot and more hard stuff coming up under our feet.
Also from the same spot a look down to our left at more dereliction. I expect many of the men who once worked here lived down there in Coniston and would most probably have had to make the long walk up here every day before they could even start their shift. Not too bad in fine summer weather but it doesn’t bear thinking about what it must have been like trudging up here every day in winter. We all choose to do it for the enjoyment nowadays, those men didn’t have that luxury.
Down the stony track we go past more abandoned buildings and equipment …..
….. with a view over towards Wetherlam on our left.
Much lower down now and the view opens up a lot more so we can see our route stretching away ahead of us …..
….. where it is will eventually lead us to the car parking area at Fell Foot.
Walking the last half mile or so back to the car park. The bracken is dying back, down here it still has some green left on it, further back it had died off completely. A reminder, if one were needed, that summer is over. Today is the autumn equinox when the sun dips below the equator and daylight hours in the northern hemisphere become shorter and shorter. Thoughts turn to the colder, darker days which lie ahead and all that they might bring. No, better not starting thinking about all that, be positive and remember all the times we’ve been out in October and November when it has often been better weather than it was in the previous months. I begin to feel more upbeat as I think about walks which we can do during the shorter daylight hours and start planning ahead.
The upbeat mood soon gets the stuffing knocked out of it when I read this notice attached to a fence post close to the gate. It gives notice of a planning application submitted by Rydal Estates to create a 58 bay, pay and display car park here and thereby removing yet another free parking spot in Lakeland. Little by little they are all gradually being replaced by ticket machines which need handfuls of pound coins before you can park for a few hours. As I read I am mentally composing my letter of objection and then I get to the last paragraph which states that you have 21 days from the date on the notice to put forward thoughts and opinions. That makes the cut off date 22nd September, which is today, so my beautifully composed letter of objection is obselete before its even down on paper and all I can say is “oh b – – – – r”.