Walk date – 8th March 2023
Distance – 7.1 miles
Weather – mostly sunny, some light cloud, breezy east wind, cold
This was our third attempt to walk over Wansfell in as many weeks. The first attempt was on a very sunny Sunday but, despite arriving early, all possible parking spaces were full. Changing walk plans didn’t work either because everywhere else was full too. A second attempt was planned for a day which was forecast to be dry, not much wind and with sunny spells. Bags were packed, food and drink prepared in readiness, batteries charged etc. etc. but when the day arrived the forecast turned out to be nothing more than a triumph of hope over expectation. Strong winds, very low light and dark clouds scudding overhead resulted in us being stymied yet again. However today’s forecast turned out to be very near the mark so off we went albeit with me nursing a very painful calf muscle in my right leg following a severe cramp in it just as I was waking up. So that didn’t bode well. All went well until we had just passed the Aira Force car park on the Ullswater lakeside road where signs indicated that the road beyond was closed. As traffic was both coming and going beyond the signs we thought that perhaps the road had been opened again and that the signs simply hadn’t been taken down yet so we carried on with the other traffic doing just the same. However just a short distance past Glenridding there was a further sign telling us that the Kirkstone Pass was closed. Annoyance/despair ensued. Nothing for it then but to get to Troutbeck by going the long way round. We turned the car around and drove back to the Aira Force turn off for the A66. As if to add insult to injury just before this road joins the A66 there is another Troutbeck, just not the one we were aiming for. Having joined the A66 it was on to the St John’s in the Vale turn off and the long journey down to Grasmere, Rydal, Ambleside and eventually Troutbeck. By this time the early start that we’d had had been knocked sideways by the extra mileage so we were starting to think that parking might not be available but as we arrived at the parking area by Church Bridge, just below Jesus Church, there was still one space available for us to pull into so we counted ourselves lucky today on that score. We had just as much trouble when we set off for the drive back home after our walk but more of that later. Given that both the drive to and from Troutbeck each had their individual tribulations it almost seemed as though the fates didn’t want us to arrive and were glad to see the back of us. Although today’s walk may eventually fade from our memories the journeys to and from it will definitely be there for a much longer time.
Parking area beside Church Bridge, Troutbeck – A592 to bus stop – public footpath from bus stop up to Holbeck Lane – Robin Lane – Hundreds Road – Wansfell Pike – Baystones – Nanny Lane – Jesus Church – Church Bridge
Having slotted into the last space in the little area beside the beck we could see the A592 sprinkled with many signs telling us that the Kirkstone Pass was closed. Its a good job we know the area well because the diversion signs were few and far between. Visitors would have been hopelessly confused I expect.
From Church Bridge we walked up the A592 to the bus stop which also has a footpath direction sign attached to it. We turned down the grassy hill with its view of Wansfell and Troutbeck village and followed the footpath down to …..
….. the footbridge across Trout Beck. The last time we used this footpath down to the bridge was on 28 Nov 2017 and the walk photos show the type of bridge and the state that the bridge was in on that occasion. Now the old bridge has been replaced by a very sturdy arched one which should be immune from future floodwaters destroying it. It would probably have to be a flood of biblical proportions to shift this one.
Crossing over the first bridge with the second bridge ahead of us. This second bridge crosses a smaller tributary of Trout Beck.
Beyond the bridges we follow a rising path up into the village. Note the daffodils blooming in the lower right hand corner of the shot. Spring is definitely just around the corner.
At the top of the path is Holbeck Lane where we turned left and walked a couple of hundred yards or so until we came to the turn off onto this rough track. This track, which is uphill all the way, eventually joins up with Robin Lane. Around one of the bends in the lane we were met with the sight of this old oak tree, lovely to see such a fine specimen of a native English tree.
The rough track joins Robin Lane at this junction. There is a seat just behind me for anyone in need of somewhere to sit and rest an aching calf muscle so I took full advantage of it for a couple of minutes. There’s a fine view of Windermere from this point too.
Very pleasant walking along Robin Lane especially for me and my sore calf muscle as I don’t have to subject it to a great deal of pressure.
Further along Robin Lane a step stile is set into the wall which affords us the opportunity to climb the short distance up to this pillar. There is no information given as to the date or the purpose of the pillar but there is a lovely view along Windermere from it.
There is also a good view of Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam from it.
Zooming out for a longer view where Crinkle Crags and Bowfell are also on the skyline.
Minus the pillar for another view along Windermere. The veil of thin white cloud drifting around has dimmed the sunlight a little but enough gets through to make it a worthwhile shot.
The step stile to the path leading up to the pillar. Its a bit awkward and there’s not a lot to hold on to but its quite do-able and the views are worth the effort.
Another junction, at which Robin Lane bears off through the gate on the left and carries on down to Ambleside. The lane on the right now becomes the Hundreds Road and that’s the one we’ll take. I’ve always wondered what ‘hundreds’ were so I had a look for some info and here’s one explanation although I don’t know how accurate it is – “Until the introduction of districts by the Local Government Act 1894, hundreds were the only widely used assessment unit between the parish, with its various administrative functions and the county, with its formal, ceremonial functions in size. Originally, when introduced by the Saxons between 613 and 1017, a hundred had land which sustained approximately 100 households.”
A closer look at the skyline view of Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and the Langdale Pikes. The land mass below Crinkle Crags and Bowfell is Lingmoor Fell.
A look back at Windermere from the Hundreds Road …..
….. together with another view over towards Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam.
The view ahead of us as we walk along the Hundreds Road.
As the track begins to curve and crosses this little beck we take our leave of it and take to the path leading off to the right just before the beck crossing. My sore calf muscle is not looking forward to the next section of the route which, although its just a moderate climb with some steeper bits here and there, will involve it being subjected to discomfort as I put pressure on it.
The uphill work is behind us for the time being so my leg can have a bit of a rest as we cross the always marshy section to join another path coming up from Troutbeck. Fortunately we had an overnight frost which has firmed the ground to some extent so it wasn’t as soggy as it usually is.
Having joined the path from Troutbeck we made our way up Wansfell Pike from where I took a few shots of the surrounding views. Obviously this one is of Windermere …..
….. then looking towards Red Screes and Caudale Moor. The V shape between them marks the top of the Kirkstone Pass which we couldn’t use this morning. Leading from it is the road down to Troutbeck, indicated by the higher of the two walls going off to the right of the shot below Caudale Moor. Altogether a much shorter route to Troutbeck for us than the one we had to take.
A skyline shot of some of the fells to the east – Thornthwaite Crag, on the extreme left, followed by Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke.
The sprawling southern end of Red Screes occupies the middle foreground and behind it is the Fairfield Horseshoe. I won’t name all the fells making up the horseshoe and if you don’t know what they are they are easy to look up.
Layers of fells to the west of us which I’ve already named so no need to add them to this shot …..
…… and another view of Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam …..
….. followed by another look over Windermere before we begin making our way over to Baystones. My calf muscle is not looking forward to that as its full of a lot of ups and downs.
Yours truly climbing the stile on the way over to Baystones with my hair getting a re-style thanks to the lively breeze.
Looking back at Wansfell Pike from the stile, humps and bumps galore across here.
I’ve made it to Baystones at last. Progress for me was on the slow and steady side with the calf muscles in both legs now giving out impending cramp signals all the way across. Frequent pauses and calf massaging had to be brought into play. Given the early start we had and a long time since breakfast we were both getting hungry so just below the top of Baystones we stopped and had something to eat and drink. It didn’t help the cramping but stomachs were more than grateful. It was fortunate that we stopped for food below the summit of Baystones because the easterly breeze was much livelier up here.
Thanks to the cold breeze we didn’t stay very long so I only took a couple of shots, this one looking eastwards towards the fells making up the western section of the Kentmere Horseshoe, the most prominent of which is Ill Bell.
Then this one looking towards Red Screes and Caudale Moor again. The black smudge along the bottom of the shot is part of one of my mittens which was hanging from my wrist and was caught by the breeze just as I took the shot. I didn’t even notice it at the time.
Sallows and Sour Hows are rather muted as the cloud thickens over on the other side of the Troutbeck valley. Mittens are put back on and we begin to make our way back down to Troutbeck.
The path from Baystones eventually leads us to this very tall stile which is crossed, rather awkwardly in my case as my calf muscle is quite sore now and is about as much use a wobbly lump of jelly. J waits at the bottom just in case but here we are on Nanny Lane without mishap.
The walk down Nanny Lane wasn’t very enjoyable given the amount of mud and semi-frozen water lying on the track, so clagged up boots all round by the time we reached this point. The double gate on the left leads to the top of Wansfell Pike and is the one we joined earlier on in our walk.
The Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke group in full sun now, they were in the shade when we were on Baystones and had a better view of them, oh well.
A firmer and drier Nanny Lane allows us to shed some of the clag from our boots as we make our way back down to Troutbeck.
The chalets of Limefitt Holiday Park come into view across the valley as we continue making our way down.
J striding out down the lane, I’m taking it at a rather steadier pace.
The rooftops of Troutbeck village come into view so its just a case of rounding the bend and dropping straight down between the houses onto the main street running through the village. Once on it and a few hundred yards along it we take a left turn onto a public footpath leading back down to …..
….. Jesus Church where we took the pathway through the grounds back to Church Bridge. We stowed our gear away and I settled back in the comfy seat to relax my sore leg and enjoy the drive back home. All went well until we were about to join the dual carriageway over Dunmail Raise where we joined a queue of traffic and came to a halt. We initially thought that traffic had built up because the Kirkstone Pass was closed, and it was about the time that children would be coming out of school so Mums would be out and about picking them up. We could also see the occasional vehicle coming our way on the other side of the carriageway so maybe roadworks and one way traffic lights were the cause of the hold-up. When an ambulance came tearing up alongside us, light flashing and sirens wailing, we realised that it was none of our supposed reasons and that an accident was the cause. The cars we had seen coming towards us on the other side of the carriageway had been the ones at the head of the queue being turned around and heading back towards Grasmere. We only found out about that when a police officer came along and told us what was happening. In the meantime an air ambulance helicopter also took off, it flew over us and headed southwards possibly to the hospital in Kendal. As cars at the head of the queue turned around and headed back towards Grasmere the queue slowly inched forward and by the time we reached the top of Dunmail a recovery vehicle came past us and headed down towards the accident spot. Eventually we learned that we would have another twenty minutes to wait while the road was cleared after which we could go on our way. All we could do was wait it out. The Kirkstone Pass was not available, using a myriad of minor country roads would be a nightmare and the other option of driving down to Kendal and picking up the A6 or M6 didn’t bear thinking about. Eventually we saw the flashing lights of a police car turning around and leading our queue of traffic down Dunmail all the way back to the Helvellyn lay-by where the road widens out and beyond which we were able to turn off at St John’s in the Vale and make our way over to the A66 and home. All in all we were stuck in the queue for about an hour, to say that we were glad to get back home is a bit of an understatement. We checked for information about the Kirkstone Pass later on, so for future reference if you are planning on using the pass in the coming months this is what we found:
The first planned closure is scheduled for Monday 6 March to 31 March, weather permitting. This will be between Brothers Water and the Kirkstone Inn. The Kirkstone Inn will remain accessible throughout this closure period via Windermere or Ambleside. A more detailed diversion route will be available in the coming weeks.
A second closure will take place in June 2023 to install the first part of the safety crash barriers.
To carry out resurfacing, a third closure will occur in September 2023.
As part of the final resurfacing, the road will be closed in March 2024.
Road closures will be weather dependent, and more information on road diversions will be available nearer the time of each closure.
Throughout the work local businesses will be open as usual, however please allow extra time if you need to follow the diversion route.
The website for further information is here: https://news.cumbria.gov.uk/News/2021/saferoadsprojectheadstokirkstonepassin2023.aspx