Having collected Chris from Manchester Airport on Thursday, Friday morning was our start day for the venture back north to the beautiful surroundings of the Lake District National Park.
It has been some time since we last ventured into this glorious area of England, I’m sure everyone can understand why.
Our destination for our small holiday home was Thirlmere, specifically Leatheswater, which was a lovely little one-bedroom cottage with great views of Thirlmere from the lounge window. (Available via Cottages.com)
Friday – Travel Day
After a leisurely breakfast and checking and re-checking our kit, we eventually set of Northwards aiming to arrive in the Lakes around 2:00pm. A quick stop at the local supermarket to buy the odd bits that we needed for the stay, and we were off.
The Lakes is really accessible from Manchester with a journey time of around two hours, but as we were in no rush, we headed directly for Ambleside to make a compulsory stop at the ‘Apple Pie Cafe’ to let Chris savour the delights of, quite possibly, the most delicious Sausage rolls in the World!
Sausage rolls suitably demolished, washed down with a nice Cappuccino, and we were good to go!
The route from Ambleside to Thirlmere was only short and soon we were heading out of Grasmere on the A591 and enjoying the spectacular view that the lakes have to offer.
We arrived at our destination early but were fortunate enough to be greeted by our host, Phillip who happily allowed us to check in, as the venue was already prepared for us! Great!!!! We quickly sorted all our stuff from the car and headed out for some Navigation refresher training just to ensure we were sharp!
We exited the accommodation, after several quick pictures and dropped out of the back of the venue which is conveniently situated right on the bank of Thirlmere. After less than a kilometre we were at the underpass on the A591 where we could see the vast bulk of Helvellyn off to our right.
We had chosen to use the Harvey SUPERWALKER XT25 maps for this excursion, so the familiarisation session would be a helpful before we went off to do some serious play on Saturday.
Our observations from the Harvey maps were as follows:
- Lightweight and easy to fold
- Clear and well-marked features
- 15m contour lines makes them slightly less cluttered
- Colour coding on contours and rocky outcrops
- Does not contain all details
- Some smaller streams unmarked
- Some footpaths not marked
Overall or experience with these maps was positive, and we concluded that some of the intricate details that you would find on an OS Map, had been sacrificed for the more prominent features and clarity on the Harvey Map.
Pacing and timing sorted, with a few attempts at locating specific features on the map and we were done.
Day 1 – Helvellyn Headwind
For the initial day out, we planned out a large day that would start with a ‘stomp’ up White Stones Route to Helvellyn Lower Man and onwards to Hellvellyn. Our original plan was to knock off the summit and progress along to Whiteside, then Raise and exit via Sticks pass.
All great plans aside, the weather had a different idea of what was going to be feasible on this Saturday morning. After ‘puffing & blowing’ uphill to get to the White Stones Route, we started to enjoy a warm welcome to Cumbria via some fairly serious Horizontal rain and winds that were gusting around 40-50 MPH. This was going to be tough!!!!
We pressed on and eventually joined the main tourist route to the top, which had a variety of parties of willing victims battling the elements to summit!
This was tough going, the constant rain, the wind and the wind chill factor was taking its toll on us. So much so, despite the perfect poses on the mountain, the realistic ones (see below) captured Chris and I hiding behind the rocks to gain a little relief from the elements!
We eventually summited in line with the initial plan, hitting the trig point at approximately 2HRs and 15mins from the start. Heading briskly to the shelter we grabbed a quick drink of warm Vimto, attempted to swallow a sandwich and layered up to ensure we did not lose any body heat to the elements!
Key learning point here, the major failure of the day was having cloth-based gloves. With wet and cold hands trying to don these was an absolute nightmare! When we did return to our cottage one of the first actions was to replace these with more robust gloves that would cope with the weather to avoid any similar unfortunate experiences!!!
Executive decision time, given the challenging conditions, the visibility and the relentless pounding from the wind and rain, I decided that we would ‘bale out’ and exit the Mountain via the most direct route, so off we set.
Even though we had (excepting our gloves) some good outdoor wear, we had still been challenged by the environment. You will imagine then, our horror, as we encountered a variety of ‘day trippers’ heading up the Mountain in trainers and tracksuits etc…
Time to find some food and a warm drink…
Day 2 – Customise the car day
Having checked a variety of weather sources, we decided that we would remain below 500m today as the cloud was down low, preventing any chance of views at all. This coupled to the likelihood of rain throughout the day, meant it really was going to be a small route with, hopefully, some opportunity to capture some new pictures for the website.
The weather had resorted to ‘minging’, the rain was very heavy, light was low and the visibility from the low cloud was less than helpful as we navigated our way down the pass.
Passing many sensible motorists along the way, we located passing places and steadily progressed to our rendezvous point for the start of our walk.
On route, there is one particularly bad bend at Hause Point, where, unfortunately, we encountered a nugget driving too fast for the conditions and the narrow road that we were on. As we pulled over as tightly as we could to the Dry-stone wall, there was the horrible sound of metal against metal as ‘coco the clown’ has decided rather than reverse, he would move forward making an even narrower gap…thanks for nothing Nugget!!
Having examined the damage (small dent and paint scratches) and deciding that there was little more that could be done, we parted on our separate ways.
At this point I was reminded of a saying that has always stayed with me, “Life is like a bubble, watch out for pricks”.
We parked at Hause point in the little parking area adjacent to Rannerdale Knotts and headed Northeast along the small path to locate Squat Beck. The weather was ok, although the constant stop/starting rain was a bit of a nuisance and at one point Chris’ camera would not function as the screen was so damp, he could not open it to capture pictures!!
This is a fabulous little walk, up the valley for approx’ 1.5KM, which was a beautiful location, this coupled to the majesty and awe of the mighty Grasmoor with its top shrouded in mist was quite a sight to see.
Instead, we headed up onto low bank and on to Rannerdate Knotts. It did not disappoint!
We had a little fun along the way, although the wind was a little too strong to capture my singing along the way (good job I might add) but our collective view was that despite it being only a low level walk, the views and beauty of the changing autumnal colours had made it all worthwhile.
We captured some fabulous views of Crummock water and back across Buttermere to the nose of Fleetwith Pike, all in all, despite a ‘bumpy’ start it had been a great day.
Time for some fish and chips….
Day 3 – High Tove ‘Bog fest’
We needed to start the day by de-camping from our holiday cottage, which was a relatively straight forward exercise. It had served us well, the location was perfect with an abundance of fabulous walks, hills, and mountains right on the doorstep, I’m sure we’ll be back.
Today the weather was much the same as Sunday, so we elected to remain low and venture off to the other side of the lake (Thirlmere) and wander up to High Tove.
An easy wander out onto the little track at the back of the premises lead us along the lake to take us around Great How and on to the small road at the end of the lake.
As we walked along the road the bulk of Raven Crag loomed large in front of us. We captured a few pictures of the now redundant car park and log pile and wandered on towards Armboth.
There is a clearly marked footpath opposite the car park at Armboth, so we gently plodded up the path paddling in the stream along the way.
This is a truly beautiful little walk, sheltered on the left by the huge spruce(?) trees coupled to the lovely sounds of the water crashing down Fisher Gill through the trees, it made for a very mindful walk towards the top.
We broke free of the cover of the tress onto the open aspects of High Tove. It’s a relatively open area but it is very, very damp!
We made it to the way stones on the top of the fell, had a quick drink and exited. Our plan was to have a few hours on the fells and be back in reasonable time to start our return journey to Manchester.
We both enjoyed the two lower-level walks and captured several great views along the way.
In summary, whilst the majesty of the High tops cannot be questioned, there is still much beauty and fun to be had at lower levels.
Time to exit, thank you Thirlmere you have been truly beautiful.
Martin & Chris