Westmorland Heritage Walk 1993

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 4 - Grasmere to Kendal


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Day 9 - Monday 28th June - Grasmere to Grasmere via Langdale Horseshoe - 20.7 miles

Accommodation - YHA, Thorney How - 9.90 B&B plus dinner 3.70

I had breakfast at 8 a.m. and there were seconds on offer again i.e. another full cooked breakfast. I needed plenty of energy for the day's walk, as there was a lot of climbing to do. I had decided to do the walk as a round loop to save having to do all the climbing with a heavy pack, at the expense of doing a few extra miles. The total amount of climbing was about 5600 ft on the route and about 6000 ft by the time I returned to Grasmere.

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Sour Milk Gill below Easedale Tarn
Sour Milk Gill
Easdale Tarn and Slapestone Edge
Easdale Tarn & Slapestone Edge
Looking towards Fairfield from Easdale Tarn
Easdale Tarn

The weather was beautiful, but getting very hot especially when climbing. There were some lovely tarns and a waterfall on the way up to Sergeant Man and then fine views down into Great Langdale from Harrison Stickle and Pike O'Stickle with good views of the central Lakeland mountains - Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Bow Fell etc. Progress was slow even though I was pressing on at a good rate. It was just not the sort of terrain for fast walking with so much steep scrambling up and down and zigzagging around, which doesn't get counted in the mileage on the map. However, there were some stretches where better speed could be maintained.

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Great Langdale from Harrison Stickle
Great Langdale from Harrison Stickle
Great Langdale from Littlegill Head
Great Langdale from Littlegill Head
Sca Fell and Scafell Pike from Bow Fell
Scafell Pikes from Bow Fell

I reached Angle Tarn at 1 p.m. and stopped for lunch. In the shelter by the tarn it was boiling hot and I covered my legs as they were already quite red. I only stopped for 15 - 20 minutes as there was still a long way to go. The going over Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags was quite slow for the same reasons as before, but I counted on the fact that, after Pike O'Blisco I should be able to crack on at a good pace.

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Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell from Pike O'Blisco
Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell
Grasmere Lake
Grasmere Lake

After lunch some thin cloud formed, which was quite good for keeping the temperature and the sunburn down, but not so good for taking photographs. However, the visibility was still quite good and there were some areas of view where the sun was still shining. Later in the day the cloud cleared again and it started to get very hot, especially lower down and this attracted bluebottles, flies and horseflies in vast numbers.

I hadn't booked dinner at the hostel in case I was late back, but I reckoned that I could just about make it back to the hostel in time, so I tried to ring from the only phone box along the route to order a meal. The phone was engaged so, after trying for 5 minutes, I gave up and decided to press on and see if they had got anything to spare when I got back. I arrived back just after 7 p.m. and asked the warden about dinner. He said that I should wait until the others had finished and then he would see if anything was left over, so I had a shower and rang home and then went for dinner. The only thing which had been finished was the sausage casserole, so I had a large bowl of soup full of lentils from the bottom of the pan, cheese and onion pie with plenty of vegetables, apple crumble with ice cream, and a large pot of tea to myself, so I did very well in the end. This is certainly a very good hostel with plenty of food and obliging wardens.

Having eaten later than the rest, I had not found out who was who, only that the Norwegians had been replaced by a party of English secondary school kids who were a great improvement even though they were not exactly perfect.

I decided against going out to the pub as it was one and a half miles there and back and it was already getting late, so I settled on doing a bit of washing and then having an early night. In the hot weather, my shorts got wringing wet, especially at the back, where the rucksack rests.


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Day 10 - Tuesday 29th June - Grasmere to Ambleside - 7 miles plus detour to Lang Howe

Accommodation - YHA Ambleside 14.50 B&B plus dinner

It started off as another fine day. I had breakfast at 8 a.m. and made a leisurely start at 9.30 a.m. The day's walk was quite short and easy, so I decided to make a slight detour up Lang Howe and then along the ridge to meet the route again by Loughrigg Tarn, thereby adding a mile or two but cutting out some road walking. I stopped by a little tarn near Lang Howe, which was teaming with gulls and reminded me of Sunbiggin Tarn last year on the Coast to Coast walk. I did a spot of sunbathing looking out onto the fells of the previous day's route. It was difficult to get used to all the relaxation, but it was just as well to build up my strength for the next day's 25-mile walk and give my feet a well-earned rest.

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Langdale Pikes from Loughrigg Tarn
Langdale Pikes from Loughrigg Tarn
Lake Windermere from Todd Crag
Windermere from Todd Crag

I set off again gently ambling along the crags. It was a very hot day so it was very nice not having to rush. After Loughrigg Tarn, the route headed over Todd Crag which provided a marvellous view overlooking Lake Windermere with the Youth Hostel very prominent in its prime position overlooking the head of the lake. After another long rest and sunbathing session from this fine viewpoint, I made my way steadily down into Ambleside where I did a bit of shopping for the next day's lunch. I then made my way to the hostel by way of Skelghyll Wood as I wanted to see if there was a footpath back up to there for use the next morning in order to save time. I found a convenient path down to the hostel, which used to be a large, lakeside hotel in a beautiful position by the lake.

The hostel is rather impersonal because of its size, and some of the splendour has been lost through lack of refurbishment over the years, but it provides 240 beds and attracts a lot of foreign visitors; in fact a coach full of Czechs arrived just after dinner. The dining room is huge and runs a cafeteria service although there were only a handful of people in there when I went for dinner. I ate my meal at a table by the front windows overlooking the lake - where else could you have a three-course meal in such a setting for 3.70?

One of the other touches of luxury, not found in most hostels, is the provision of baths as well as showers, and many of the dormitories, including the one I was in, have lakeside views. Just to show how warm it had been, there were still quite a few people swimming in the lake.

After doing a bit of washing, I went into Ambleside for a drink and sat outside, as it was still warm, even late in the evening.


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Day 11 - Wednesday 30th June - Ambleside to Kendal - 25.5 miles via Thornthwaite Crag, Harter Fell and Longsleddale

Accommodation - YHA, Kendal, 9.90 B&B

The day started off calm and fine, but with a hazy mist hanging over the lake and the morning sun just breaking through. It was pleasantly cool at 7.30 a.m. but looked as if it could get very hot later on. Breakfast was served from 8 a.m. to 8.45 a.m., so I got in at the start and managed to start walking at 8.35 a.m., heading back up to the woods to return to the route.

The first setback of the day came very soon, as the path I had joined started dropping back down again instead of climbing up to Jenkin Crag. I had to scramble up through the steep wooded hillside to eventually regain the correct path. The route to Troutbeck was then quite easy although the warm weather brought out vast numbers of flies and other insects. The cow pats along the path, which were numerous, were covered to the point of being virtually obscured, by swarms of bluebottles or horseflies, which dispersed when they were approached. Some of them then decided on a change of diet when tempted by a sweaty human body, so one had to be very quick to try to swat them off. Inevitably, a few managed to get a good bite in before they had been noticed and it was not very pleasant to think what their last meal was.

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Ill Bell from Yoke
Ill Bell from Yoke
Kentmere Reservoir from Yoke
Kentmere Reservoir from Yoke

After Troutbeck, there was a steady ascent up to Garburn Pass and then on to Yoke, the first of the peaks to be climbed. I started to think that it was thundering, but realised that the sounds were coming from a huge quarry across the valley. The visibility was not very good, with a lot of haze in the distance and rather overcast, but it was still good enough to see the main features of the scenery, with a good view of Kentmere reservoir and the surrounding mountains. The hot and sticky conditions lower down were also replaced by cooler, fresher weather high up.

There were several rather steep ascents and descents between the various peaks of a few hundred feet each and I started to get a bit worried about my supply of water which was almost finished. I did not carry a lot because I thought that I would be able to find ample supplies on the way, but there were very few streams along the route. Fortunately, near High Street, I found a beautifully clear and fresh spring coming out of the hillside not far from the path, so I settled there for a break for lunch. There were some extremely fine views of the various lakes and tarns around the route, although they were marred somewhat by the rather murky conditions.

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Blea Water and Hawes Water from Mardale Ill Bell
Blea Water and Hawes Water
Longsleddale near Goat Scar
Longsleddale near Goat Scar

This part of the walk had been rather slow, as I expected, because of the terrain and my average speed was less than 2 m.p.h., even though I had been pressing on quite well. After Harter Fell, which commands a very good view of Hawes Water, I dropped down fairly steeply into Longsleddale which certainly lives up to its name. However, after the initial descent, the walking was much easier and quicker, and made pleasant by the use of paths and bridleways instead of following the road down the valley. The scenery was very good, especially at the head of Longsleddale, with several rugged crags at either side, gradually getting gentler further down the valley.

I started making much better time on the flatter ground, but there were still a lot of miles to go. I passed a phone box about 5 miles from Kendal, so I rang home, only to find that the police had been enquiring about my car, thinking that it had been abandoned. Obviously my note had not had the desired effect. Jean had made a couple of phone calls and explained the situation, so hopefully it would be alright. While I was checking the way on my map, about a mile from Burneside, a couple of youths came by and said "this way". I didn't know how they could know which way I should be going, but they said that a lot of other walkers with similar maps had all headed that way. It didn't dawn on me until later, that Burneside is on the Dales Way - it is just as well that my route also went in the same direction. I called in the pub in Burneside for a quick pint, as I needed it, and had another chap telling me that the weather should be good in Bowness tomorrow (the end of the Dales Way). I didn't bother to tell him that I was going elsewhere.

I continued on my way and eventually reached Kendal Youth Hostel at 8 p.m. It is part of the Brewery Arts Centre and is very central and obviously a different one from that marked on my old O.S. map, which was about a mile out of town. There were quite a few foreign teenagers there and I think a lot of people were there for some of the concerts which were on. I went out later and had fish and chips and then walked up by the castle, which overlooks the town. The castle is on the route of the walk, so by going up there in the evening I avoided extra walking in the morning.


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