Walk date – 1st March 2020
Distance – 4.6 miles
Weather – cloudy with rain and hail showers, windy, sun only rarely
The all too familiar weather pattern continues so another short walk after the rain stopped late morning. The wind was still strong so we went over to Haweswater for a low level walk along the shoreline, up alongside Measand Beck, over to Four Stones Hill and back to Burnbanks. There was some protection from the wind along the shoreline path but once above Measand Beck we were in the thick of it. By then though we had our backs to it and we weren’t having to struggle against it for a change. There were several rain and hail showers while we were out so the camera had to be hidden away. However, despite wiping the lens before every shot when I did use it, the occasional stray drop of moisture managed to blow in on the wind and take up residence on the lens creating the occasional blurry blob on some of the photos. We met two people on the shoreline path, just out for a Sunday afternoon stroll I think, because, like us, they weren’t carrying packs and weren’t dressed for an outing on the higher snowy fells, and we met nobody at all after that. Had the rain stopped a little earlier and the winds not been so strong we might have been tempted onto the snow covered fells, despite the greyness of the day. Fingers crossed that we’ll still get a proper snow walk in before it all melts away.
Burnbanks – Haweswater shore path – Measand Beck – Four Stones HIll – Burnbanks
We parked on the Mardale Head road just beyond the road junction at the little hamlet of Burnbanks. We were unaware, until we reached Bampton, that the Haweswater Half Marathon was being held today, an out and back road run from Bampton to Mardale Head, so all the way from Bampton to Burnbanks J drove extra carefully knowing that the front runners might suddenly appear around one of the many bends in this particular stretch of road. The lead runner came in sight just as we left Bampton with the rest of the field stretched out behind him. Fortunately there were a couple of spaces still available for us to park up in at Burnbanks so the event didn’t interfere with our plans at all. We made our way past the houses to take the track along the Haweswater shore.
The track rises from the village, eventually flattening out for a while, and here we get our first view of Measand End, over on the left. The path on the right is one of many to be found on this part of Bampton Common and if you don’t have a particular route in mind climbing up any of them eventually leads to Four Stones Hill and beyond. Our plan today is to go as far as Measand Beck and walk up beside the waterfalls, which should be in full flow after all the rain and snow, so we keep to the main path.
Looking up to the little cairn, below the white cloud, which is located just below the top of Four Stones Hill, we’ll be visiting it on our return leg.
Further along and the views begin to open up, although beyond the dark shape of Measand End, in the centre, the snow covered slopes of High Raise and Kidsty Pike are only just visible at the moment.
In more normal conditions this path can often be very puddly, present conditions being a little abnormal meant that today the whole length of it was a running stream rather than a path. The stepping stones beside the path came in handy to avoid an ankle deep puddle.
Looking back along Haweswater to the dam at the far end. Much of the initial part of the path is well away from the shoreline and a view of the water from it is blocked by woodland so this was the first opportunity we had for a view of it. The next shot illustrates the point …..
….. where the water is only just visible beyond the wall and the trees on the right. J is muffled up against the wind which was pretty strong even along here …..
….. as it swept towards us unhindered, and bringing spits and spots of rain with it, along the length of the water.
A rare glimpse of sunlight pierces the cloud and casts a brilliant sheen on the water. Before dropping down the path I climbed over the gate in the wall for this shot …..
….. looking back towards the dam and where the clouds are sufficiently broken in that direction for the sun to light up the far shore and Burnbanks too presumably. No such brilliant light where I am and the wind is rattling my hood hard against my head and trying its best to blow me over.
Only a short distance from the previous photo we arrived at the footbridge across Measand Beck where the numerous falls were putting on a spectacular show. The hillside bracken is completely flat now and it was possible to get quite close so I took several shots as we climbed alongside it. Its a good time to view the falls, during the summer the foliage obscures much of the view although the bare branches weren’t doing too bad a job of that themselves. Here’s a selection of the shots I took along the way …..
Looking towards the Haweswater Hotel and Mardale Head from the path beside the beck. Branstree, on the left, and Harter Fell, to the right, are a little clearer to see now.
Almost at the top of the climb now and at the point where the beck divides and takes two different routes, creating the series of spectacular falls as they tumble over the rocks and boulders down into Haweswater.
Looking upstream at Measand Beck as it plunges through a narrow gorge just before the point at which it divides …..
….. and then I took a look across the gorge towards Four Stones Hill …..
….. followed by a look back along our path and where the beck is about to fall into Haweswater, a couple of hundred feet or so below us.
We leave the rough and tumble of the falls behind and walk up alongside the quieter reaches of the beck as it meanders through Fordingdale Bottom. We’re heading for the bridge in the distance.
At last we get some sunlight when a break in the cloud lets the sunlight fall onto the slopes of High Kop. It was only a couple of seconds though but very nice to see while it was there.
We crossed the bridge and made our way over the extremely waterlogged ground towards Four Stones Hill. The cloud lifted and brightened a little so we had a much better view of Branstree and Harter Fell at the head of Mardale. The gate we passed through is in the fence towards the bottom of the shot and just to the left of that is the beginning of the rocky gorge through which the beck cascades.
A little to the right now for a closer look at Measand End and once over the steepish climb there’s a very pleasant moorland walk over to Low Raise and High Raise. Another blob of moisture on the lens appears just as we begin to hear the pitter patter of rain landing on jackets and hoods. The camera went away again, we turned our backs to the wind and rain and carried on up the hill.
The rain eases off so out comes the camera again as we approach Four Stones Hill with water running down every slope …..
….. quite a lot of which was coming from the little tarn below Four Stones Hill. All this water is from a tarn which, more often than not, is usually no more than ankle level deep and sometimes completely dried out. More spits and spots appear on the lens as yet another shower comes along. The shot just about sums up the theme for the day – water, water, everywhere.
The tarn below Four Stones Hill where we received plenty of vicious stings in the face when a hail shower arrived …..
….. together with an increase in wind speed …..
….. so at the top of Four Stones J used the Kestrel to check the speed, 32 mph. I was surprised not to find an ice pellet stuck to the lens when I downloaded this shot. It wasn’t a pleasant place to linger and I expect it would have been even more unpleasant above Mardale Head over there, where its just possible to make out, from left to right, Branstree, Harter Fell, Mardale Ill Bell and a little of Rough Crag.
We dropped down to the lower cairn which I mentioned earlier with its lovely view, although a little sombre today, along Haweswater and the fells around Mardale Head.
Just a slight change of position for this view towards Measand End and High Raise.
From the cairn we begin descending back to Burnbanks. There’s no right or wrong way so you can take whichever of the many paths happens to take your fancy.
A look back as we descend from Four Stones Hill …..
….. and a look ahead towards Great Birkhouse Hill.
Looking back at the watery landscape as we pass beyond Great Birkhouse Hill. You can imagine the state of our boots by now.
We reach a relatively drier path from where we have this view of Knipe Scar and the flatlands to the north and east and …..
….. to the right of the path, and across the valley, are the wooded slopes of Naddle Forest.
Haweswater comes into view again where torrents of water are plunging over the spillway, so much of it that the noise of it could be heard clearly over here.
We’re almost back down now and crossing even soggier land, if that were possible, as we approach Burnbanks.
The path takes us straight down to the gate, which is used by farm vehicles and animals as well as walkers so the area around it could only be described as a quagmire. On the other side of the gate is the tarmac lane leading into, and out of, the village, which this path by-passes. Happily, for us, the wearers of extremely muddy boots, the lane was full of puddles which came in handy for rinsing off the mud, stones and bits of bracken which were clinging to them.
Suitably cleaned up we left the village lane as mud free as we found it and walked back to the car, from where I took this shot looking towards the junction. The half marathon is over and done with and runners, spectators and marshals have cleared up and gone home, leaving Burnbanks to its usual tranquility, which from now on will only be disturbed every now and again by motorists coming back from their day’s walking around the fells above Mardale. Its started spitting with rain again, oh well, let’s go and get that kettle on.