THE LANES & WOODS OF SKELWITH & TARN HOWS

 


Summary

Date - 16th September 2010 Distance - 10.75 miles
Ascent - 1470ft
Map - OL7 Start point - Beside A593 Nr footbridge over river at Brathay (NY 363034)

 

Preface

"What a week so far", complained Grizzly, who was staring glumly out of the window, as the rain beat against it, in another torrential downpour.

"We would be soaked in seconds", replied Allen.

Tetley was sitting in front of Dad's laptop, looking at the Met Office forecast for the Lake District. "For Thursday, when we have a walk day with Uncle Eric, the weather looks to be mostly dry, but the winds on the fells are still gale force with even stronger gusts."

"It doesn't sound too pleasant, and it would be very hard going for Uncle Eric", replied Grizzly.

"It would be a better idea to do a low walk", said Allen. "After all we do not need to necessarily be on the high fells to get good views."

During these exchanges Shaun, with Little Eric riding on his back, had wandered in.

Little Eric said, "I agree, your ideas make sense."

We all then gathered round Dad's laptop, while Tetley navigated the folders to show us the results of Dad's photographic efforts on the recent walks.

"There are some good shots and they give a good record of the adventures, which will be great to look back on in the future.", mused Grizzly.

The next day, we were sitting reading the book by Bill Birkett on Scafell, when Dad wandered in. "I have spoken to Uncle Eric about walking tomorrow. The winds are still forecast to be very strong on the fells, so it has been decided to do a valley walk. We will be walking in the Skelwith area and round Tarn Hows.

"Haven't Shaun and I done that before?", asked Tetley, who has a phenomenal memory of past adventures.

"Yes", agreed Dad. "We did it in June 2002, but much of the detail has faded over time, and it will be a completely new adventure for Allen, Grizzly & Little Eric."

"Can't wait", shouted Little Eric, excitedly.

 

The Walk

Dad drove us to Uncle Eric's, where we decamped to his car for the about 10 miles drive via Windermere and Ambleside, to the start point on the A593 at the boundary between Brathay & Clappersgate. While Dad got ready we jumped into the rucksack and got settled. The road was crossed carefully, and just a few yards along we forked left along the path and over the bridge that spans the River Brathay, which like all the rivers and streams was flowing quite fast after the rains this week.

This led to Bog Lane, where almost immediately we went left through a gateway.

"Were going the wrong way", called out Shaun, who was scrutinising the map.

"Yes, I know we should continue along the lane but we are going to have a look at Holy Trinity Church, first.

William Wordsworth wrote: 'There is not a situation outside the alps or among them more beautiful than this'. He was describing the top of a small rugged hill, among trees and high above the River Brathay - the site he suggested for the building of the church. The space on the summit was so limited that the dramatic church had to be orientated north-south rather than customary east-west. It was built in the Italianate style by the Redmaynes of Brathay Hall and consecrated in 1836. The Redmaynes made their fortune in the Italian silk trade, which may explain the style of the Church. The burials in the sloping churchyard are of the clergy facing west and the laity east. It is without doubt in a beautiful and tranquil situation.

"It's time we were getting on again", said Tetley.

"All right", replied Dad.

So, we returned to the lane, turned left and walked along to the buildings of Jeffy Cottages, where we went right on the permissive path through deciduous trees, beside the fast flowing Brathay, to then rejoin Bog Lane. Continuing along the road, the view to the right suddenly opened up to the Langdale Pikes.

"Wow", shouted Allen. "That's a superb view and I like way that patch of sunlight is falling across the mountains."

"Before you ask, yes I am going to take a few pictures", said Dad, knowing full well what Allen is like.

The quiet lane led to the pretty hamlet of Skelwith Fold. Here it was left, along the lane signed Hawkshead. Long ago, there had once been at intervals gates across this lane, for reasons that Uncle Eric and Dad could not properly work out. While the gates have been removed the old lichen encrusted stone slab posts still survive, like this, with the fastening for the latch to sit in.

Below Pull Scar, the road turned sharp left. Ahead was a gate that we went through, to walk a good track that climbed through the glorious woodland of Pullscar Plantation.

"Just look at the view to the right", called out Little Eric. "There are so many different greens in the trees."

"Oh yes", replied Dad.

"I'll stroll on while you frame the shot", said Uncle Eric, after having surveyed the scene.

Exiting the woodland, the path led on, muddy at times after the rains earlier this week, to come to an excellently signed junction.

Our route was to continue ahead to Sunny Brow. You can see that the right turn leads to Iron Keld. We could have followed this path, as we were to pass its other end later. However we would have missed out on Tarn Hows and more wonderful views to come.

At Sunny Brow, we joined another narrow lane that led through the hamlet of Knipe Fold. Beyond, another junction was reached and here it was right to climb a steep hill (well the sign said we were at Hawkshead Hill), to pass Betty Fold. The building housing a gallery and tea room.

"That's one you have not visited before", chimed up Allen.

"It's also too soon to make a stop", added Shaun.

"OK", said Dad rather downheartedly, marching on past.

"Well it's one to remember to bring Uncle Brian, sometime", said Grizzly, helpfully.

"Ooh yes", replied Dad, his face brightening.

Shortly we took the signed track right to a cluster of houses, beyond climbing a rough track, through a gate and on to open pasture. Here were more wonderful views this time across to Fairfield and Red Screes. Below Uncle Eric strides on towards another gate beneath more glorious trees.

Shortly beyond the gate, at a cross of paths, we climbed the stile on the right, to follow the narrow grassy trod, passing Rose Castle, a tiny house belonging to the National Trust. Built in the 19th century, it is Grade II listed.

The path wound behind the house and as it started to descend, suddenly below us was Tarn Hows. This is one of the most popular tourist places in the Lake District, and one of the most photographed too. Dad took a number of shots, but after careful consideration, we think this is the best. Well it's our story after all.

"That's Wetherlam behind", said Tetley. "We last climbed it in July 2008, via the steep slope on its right, Wetherlam Edge."

"I had forgotten that it was over two years ago. My how time flies", added Allen. "We did a story about that adventure too." Wetherlam

Little Eric, who is not as familiar with the fells as the rest of us asked, "what is the mountain away to the left beyond Wetherlam?"

"Coniston Old Man", replied Shaun instantly.

Up to now we had seen only two other walkers today, but descending to the tarn and proceeding round it, there were people everywhere, which was hardly surprising. Some of the groups talked in loud voices, rather shattering the peace and tranquility. We were to be glad when we finally got away from the tarn area. Strolled down and round the head of the tarn below the narrow road, then on down the west side, passing the signed path to Glen Mary with its lovely waterfalls.

"We walked down there on an adventure in November 2007", said Tetley.

"Oh yes", replied Shaun. "We climbed Holme Fell and Black Crag that day too. It was very misty and navigating to the tops was rather difficult, but we made it."

A little further on there was a free seat, where we all sat to have our picnic. Just here it decided to rain, but it was not too heavy so we did not get very wet. The shower soon passed over and it was dry again for the rest of the walk.

Continuing on, as the head of the tarn was reached, we left the "round the tarn" path, to take the track heading north. This led to a gate on to a wide track, where another substantial signpost, clearly displayed the route options.

"Which way now?, asked Grizzly.

"Right in the direction of Iron Keld", replied Shaun, consulting the map.

The track wound on, a gap in the trees affording another fine view to the Langdale Pikes.

"That will make a good picture for our story", called out Allen.

"I know", replied Dad, hauling out the camera.

The sun is shining on Pike o'Stickle (2323ft) and Loft Crag (2238ft). Then right, just in the shadow is the lower summit of Thorn Crag (2106ft), with in full shadow Harrison Stickle (2414ft) and Pavey Ark (2288ft). The bare fell in the foreground is Lingmoor (1539ft), that lies on the opposite side of the valley of Great Langdale, from the Pikes.

Walking on, we finally reached another junction. Ahead the track continued towards Hawkshead, but our route was through the gate on the left into Iron Keld Plantation. In case you are wondering the name means 'Iron Spring'. The wide track proceeded through the plantation, although the trees have been considerably thinned out. After a straight section at first, it then wound through a few bends to reach yet another junction. The path coming in from the right, was the opposite end of the path from the junction on the track from Pullscar to Sunny Brow. You can now see what we would have missed had we taken that path earlier. Staying on the track we continued under the slopes of Black Fell, and up to a brow, where there was a most wonderful panorama. It brought us all to a stop as we took in the scene. We could see - The Coniston Fells, Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, Esk Pike, Great End, Allen Crags, Rossett Pike, Langdale Pikes, Sergeant Man, Ullscarf, Steel Fell, Helm Crag, Seat Sandal, Dollywagon Pike, Fairfield Horseshoe, & Red Screes. Breathtaking!!! Below is just part of the scene, showing Helvellyn with the ridge right to Dollywagon Pike, with Seat Sandal in the sun in front. The group of fells to the right make up the Fairfield Horseshoe.

It just goes to show, as we have said before, that you do not necessarily need to be high up to get great views. Looking left, we could see a heavy rain storm passing over Bowfell and the Crinkle Crags.

"Glad we are not over there", remarked Tetley.

Just here there was a little outcrop of rocks, where we sat for Dad to take our picture. Well, you did not think you were going to get away without us making an appearance?

The path now descending steadily, eventually brought us to the main A593 from Ambleside to Coniston. It was right along this, taking extreme care at the first bend. Passing the entrance to Stephen How, shortly we joined the permissive path through the woods, above the road, to come to a narrow lane, descending to this by a short flight of steps.

"Where now?", asked Little Eric

Once again Shaun came up with the answer, after consulting the map. "We climb up this lane, until we reach the end of the wood, where we take a narrow steep path down through the woods, to come to the road by the Skelwith Community Centre. It is a typically Lakeland stone building that had once been the local school. Turning right along the road, we then went left at the next junction to climb the short steep hill to Skelwith Fold, coming along the lane down the hill in the picture below.

Turning left at the junction, we rejoined the outward route, to pass Brathay Church and cross the bridge to reach the car.

"What a lovely walk", said Allen.

"You're right", the rest of us chorused in unison.

"Thanks Dad and Uncle Eric", called out Grizzly.

"You're welcome Lads", they replied.

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