ELTERWATER, SKELWITH BRIDGE, COLWITH & LITTLE LANGDALE

 


Summary

Date - 14th December 2010 Distance - 6.5 miles
Ascent -
800ft
Map - OL7 Start point - NT car park, Elterwater village (NY 329047)

 

Preface

"It's over two weeks since we were last out walking", mused Tetley, who with the rest of the club was enjoying an afternoon mug of tea and chocolate biscuit from their 'tuck tin'.

"My, but it has been ever so cold, especially last week when Dad and Uncle Brian, went with Fletcher and his guests to Armathwaite Hall at Bassenthwaite", said Grizzly.

"Fletcher told me that the Lake District was under a blanket of snow, the mountains and trees looking quite spectacular", said Little Eric, who was munching away at his mint kitkat.

Allen who was sitting looking at Dad's laptop, now piped up. "How right you are. The pictures Dad took of the grounds at Armathwaite Hall show what a winter wonderland it was."

So we all gathered round while Allen navigated through them.

He then went on, "Fletcher has been busy with Dad writing an account of the stay, and looking at these pictures, it will make a great addition to our website.

"While you're on, have a look at the Met Office forecast for the Lake District, for Tuesday, as that is the day Dad had arranged to walk with Uncle Eric", said Shaun.

"OK pal". After few clicks, Allen went on, "the forecast is a basically dry day with sunny intervals, little wind and less cold than last week."

"That's great, now all we have to find out is where we are going", he replied.

"I have finished my tea, so I'll go and ask Dad", said Tetley, "as I know that Uncle Eric was ringing some time this afternoon, to make the arrangements."

Allen continued to browse on Dad's laptop, while the rest of us just sat quietly finishing our tea and biscuits.

Presently Tetley returned. "Sorry I was so long but Dad was chatting to Uncle Eric, so I had to wait until they had finished. It has been decided to go to the Lake District, but not on the fells, instead we will be walking in Great and Little Langdale, starting from Elterwater. In fact Shaun and I have done the walk before in February 2004, but it will great to do it again."

"Great too, for Allen, Little Eric and I", added Grizzly, "as it will be another part of Lakeland that we will have explored."

 

The Walk

Dad drove us as usual to Uncle Eric's, where we decamped to his car for the onward journey to Elterwater Village, that is on the approach to the Great Langdale Valley. The snows had largely gone but there were still pockets in gullies on the hills. On the paths, sheet ice was the hazard that we encountered in places, so care was needed. Still cool, but not as cold by any means as some of the days recently. No wind to speak off, but when facing any breeze it felt cold. Starting from the main car park in Elterwater, we walked the Cumbria Way, along side Great Langdale beck, the first stretch illustrating the ice we had to contend with at times.

As you can see Uncle Eric had got a little way ahead, so Shaun said, "you had better get your skates on Dad, to catch up."

The path leads ultimately to Skelwith Bridge, which was our destination. A lovely walk with the ridge of fells to the left on which we had walked about a month ago. After walking through open country, we entered woodland.

Spotting some large boulders, Allen called out, "that will be a good place to sit for our picture."

"OK Lads, settle down and smile for the camera."

Uncle Eric had walked on and we caught him up, just beyond the end of the woodland. He was sitting on a seat, beside Elterwater, surrounded by ducks that had come, hoping to be fed.

Then we all sat for a while to enjoy the beautiful view across the lake. In the centre are the Langdale Pikes, which would have looked superb had they not been covered in cloud.

"Despite the cloud, it is still a wonderful view", remarked Little Eric.

"Yes", replied Tetley, "and when we set off we will be able to enjoy it for a while longer as we will be looking back."

So Dad shouldered his rucksack, and we headed on along the meandering path, eventually through a gate into more woodland. Here the path passed above Skelwith Force, but the path and rocks that had to be crossed to view them looked to be icy in places so Dad decided not to risk going down today. Here however is the shot that Dad took, when he originally did this walk in February 2004.

To avoid a particularly icy section of path, we now walked this last part along the road, passing the slate works and Skelwith Bridge Hotel. This stands in the corner formed by the main Ambleside-Coniston road and the road to Great Langdale.

"Which way now", asked Grizzly.

"We turn right, cross the bridge, then shortly take the second signed footpath on the right", said Shaun, consulting the map.

The path led through woodland climbing steadily to a junction. There was a three-armed signpost here, and we peered at it to read the various directions. "It must be left here, as it says Colwith Bridge, and that is where we are heading for", said Shaun.

Still climbing, we eventually exited the woodland, and continued over open land to pass Tiplog (an unusual name for a house) and Park Cottage. On along the path we then came to Elterwater Park Country Guest House, formerly Park Farm. Of interest here is the stone set into the wall of one of the buildings, on which is carved the alphabet in 5 different scripts. Local knowledge says it was an apprentice stone, a teaching aid for Stone Masons.

"Where now"?, asked Little Eric.

Once again Shaun consulted the map and replied, "We ignore the access track and continue on the footpath, as indicated by the waymark over there."

This led to Low Park, once a farm but now a private house. This was skirted to its left along a short stretch of track with stiles at each end. Probably a path diversion when the property ceased to be a farm. Then we crossed its access track and through a kissing gate continued over fields, crossing more stiles, like this stepped gap stile.

Shortly after another stile was crossed and the narrow path continued high above the Colwith Beck, with a sheer vertical drop to the right. Were glad that this section was ice free! Beyond, it then descended by a series of steps that wound down, then across level ground to a stile in the wall to the road.

Before anyone could ask, Shaun said, "we turn right then go left into Tongue Intake Plantation."

"Thanks pal", replied Tetley.

This was clear to see, steps having been built to make climbing the bank easier, and beyond the fence our was was clearly signed to the next objective Colwith Force.

The sign below about Woods, was very interesting and we gathered round and took a minute or so the read it.

It informed us that the moist climate and acid soils of the Lake District combine to encourage beautiful moss-rich oakwoods. A habitat that is rare in Europe and of international importance. The humid conditions also produce abundant ferns, liverworts and lichens. Sessile oak is the dominant tree, often with an understorey of birch, holly, rowan and hazel. Where the soils are richer, ash, wych elm and bird cherry are also to be found. In the past, trees played a vital role in local industries. The wood was regularly coppiced to produce charcoal for iron smelting and gunpowder manufacture, as well as bark for the leather tanning industry. Wildlife prefers woods of a variety of species, made up of trees of different ages, lots of dead wood and with a few sunny glades. The best way to care for these 'Atlantic oakwoods', is to leave them alone, apart from removing non-native trees and controlling the number of sheep and deer that might prevent the natural process of regrowth.

"Well", remarked Allen, "we have learnt something today.

"Yes", agreed Tetley. "I never realised how important the oak woodlands are."

The path curved left under some banking, and then continued up some steps. This was our route, but first we went right on short diversion to view the spectacular Colwith Force, that really in spate too!! The drop is about 55ft.

"That's beautiful", said Little Eric.

"It certainly is", replied Grizzly. "I am glad that Little Eric, Allen and I have had the opportunity to see it at last."

Uncle Eric had not visited it before, so we lingered a while to take in the scene.

Returning, we climbed the steps, to follow the path on by the gently flowing Colwith Beck.

"It's hard to believe that in such a short distance it will be thundering over the falls", mused Tetley.

The path climbed on to reach a cross track by a wall.

"It's right here, through that gate", called out Shaun

We crossed the pasture with the rocky height of Great How to the left, to another gate, to cross another pasture to the buildings of High Park. This too was a farm, but judging by the number of workmens vans that were blocking the path between the buildings, it was undergoing conversion to dwellings. So instead took the access path left to the road, to then turn right. We were now in beautiful valley of Little Langdale, divided from its larger neighbour Great Langdale, by Lingmoor (1539ft). This was to our right with houses dotted below its slopes.

"What an enchanting view", said Allen in wonder.

Strolled on along the narrow, quiet road to Stang End, where, opposite the house is this typical Lake District bank barn. Such buildings are so well represented in the Lake District, that it can be recognised as its distinctive building type.

A bank barn is a farm building which combines a conventional threshing barn at an upper level with a cowhouse, stable, cartshed or loose boxes at the lower level. The upper level with its big barn doors is usually reached from the fields, the lower level opening onto the farmyard. As can be seen here, the verandah on the upper level is accessed via a gate adjacent to the barn doors, and provides space to store logs and small implements.

We had approached from the left where, by the side of the road stood this three-armed signpost, and clearly our route was right between the house and barn.

"I did not realise we still had three miles to go", remarked Uncle Eric.

"According to the GPS, it is only two miles", replied Dad.

Shaun said, "the distances relate to the cycle route, which I suppose we will not be following exactly on this walk."

Then it was down the left side of the house, to pass through a gate and on along the track to cross the footbridge over the Colwith Beck. Access to the footbridge was protected by a gate at each end. At the far end the gate closure was some what unusual and ingenious. A metal rope attached to the gate, running over the adjacent tree, with attached to it was a heavy metal weight that dangled over the water.

Crossing the field beyond, we reached another narrow road, where we went left to Little Langdale Cottage at Wilson Place. Built in the 16th century and always inhabited, it now offers self catering holiday accommodation for up to six persons.

"It is right here along the side of the cottage", called out Shaun, who was consulting the map.

Beyond, a path led beside fields to a gate, and on along a walled track to a stile. The path now immediately swung left, then right, to cross open land, to a gate onto a cross track. The signpost indicated that going left led to Little Langdale Tarn, but our route was right on the wide track to a gate and beyond a fork in the track.

"Which way now"?, said Allen.

"Left", replied Shaun.

This led in to Sawrey's Wood, where the path climbed steadily, but not before we had passed a money tree. Money growing on trees? Well not exactly, rather lots of 1p & 2p coins etc, hammered into the trunk. We had seen such trees before, around Janet's Foss near Malham in Yorkshire Dales.

Through the day there had been a number of opportunities for views of the Langdale Pikes, but they had been resolutely covered in cloud. However as we reach the crest of the rise, a magnificent prospect was revealed of Harrison Stickle (2414ft) and Pavey Ark (2288ft), clear of cloud. Patience rewarded at last!

Ongoing the rough path soon descended to a narrow road, opposite a house. Immediately beyond we went left off this, to walk through Elterwater Quarry. The hole in the ground where the stone has been removed is immense, and we could hear the slate being cut in the sheds, over which there was another wonderful prospect of the Pikes. Loft Crag (2238ft) is to the left, with lower Thorn Crag (2106ft) to its right, Harrison Stickle (2414ft), and Pavey Ark (2288ft) just disappearing under cloud.

The waymarked route wound on through spoil heaps, to come beside Great Langdale Beck and then cross it via the bridge, to the road at Chapel Stile. Because of the cold weather Uncle Eric and Dad had decided not to bring a picnic, but rather have lunch at a cafe. Dad recalled that in Chapel Stile, above the Co-op store is Brambles Cafe. He had been a few weeks ago, and as it was only a very short distance along the road, suggested this, Uncle Eric readily agreeing. Dad had delicious parsnip soup (some of the best soup he had ever had) then a BLT on brown bread, and tea. Uncle Eric had hot chocolate, bacon bap and then gingerbread. Excellent they said and we can heartily recommend it. We had packed a picnic, and the owners said it was alight for us to eat it in the cafe, although we did have some of Dad's tea! As we had entered the Co-op, we had noticed this amusing sign.

Setting off again, we walked along to recross the beck, then along a very icy path, to the quarry access road. Striding out along this we soon reached our start point in Elterwater. An quite excellent walk through lovely scenery in these quiet corners of Lakeland. We would recommend it to anyone, who loves the Lake District.

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