Spire Appeal 7 Wonders of Lake District

The 7 Wonders of the Lake District?

What would be your nominations? You could ask a range of visitors and get a range of answers. But there would be much common ground. Just about everyone would mention Grasmere, though perhaps for different reasons. Artists and photographers would make the case for the Head of Ullswater or for the unmistakeable skyline of the Langdales. No walker who has been there forgets Striding Edge and the climbing fraternity would vote for Scafell Crag, both for its ferocious aspect and history. Surely, you can’t leave out the roof of England, Scafell Pike, and the view up Wasdale justifies, for once, the term iconic. And what do these 7 have in common? They lie, roughly along a SW / NE axis of the National Park. So, link them together and you might have a 24 hour challenge and a scenic feast.

So, that was the thought as I left a warm pub in Stainton - there’s a regular bus from Penrith station - crossed into the National Park and started heading South West. There are unavoidable road lengths here but the scenery is varied, thick and lush, England at its green and pleasant best. A stately home – Dalemain, a furtive fisherman in the Eamont, then chucking-out time from the pubs at Pooley Bridge. From there, in full moonlight, scenic not spooky, my route took me along the shores of Ullswater. I recall somewhere, surprising a young deer, on the unexpected, lake - side of a fence. Soon after midnight I found a quiet corner for a brief bivvi, near Sandwick, the only place where I have seen red squirrels in the wild. Not this trip; I wanted to wait for better light for one of the best of the lakeside paths, round to the head of Ullswater. Dawn hadn’t quite got the lights fully on as I caught sight of my first landmark, the view across the lake to St Sunday Crag and the Helvellyn range. Warm sunshine was forecast, so, as I crossed the beck to Patterdale I saw cooling early murk as a plus.

 

Now for the second Wonder, Striding Edge. Up, up, along and up goes the path, across the steep northern wall of Grisedale, towards the most well-known gap in any wall. Beyond, in a boiling mist, lay the Edge. It was deserted – it was 6am - and throwing strange shapes and shadows in the steam as I scrambled up and along the stickle bricks used to form the crest. Then, just as I completed the climb down off the last bluff, a vivid blue light appeared and the mist cleared spectacularly. The view back was the classic view east along the knife-edge. And up to the summit I went, waiting for the big view west. And there was…. nothing. Well, just that vivid blue and the brightest of sunshine above an unending pile of cotton wool. The daft thing was that I had remembered that a spring lay along the line towards Pillar, 300 metres away. So I went looking for a Pillar-shaped piece of cotton wool. Yes, I failed, and so started to descend. And now I met company, in the shape of a glory. My shadow, surrounded by a rainbow, was keeping pace with me along the path. Not just for a few seconds but, in 3 stretches, a total of 10 or 15 minutes. So I now have a picture that demonstrates, I would say, that the sun does indeed shine out of my rear quarters. Less clever was my being distracted sufficiently to end up heading to Wythburn as a route to Grasmere. This did not cost much time but I cannot recommend walking along Dunmail Raise road. It is like being the assistant in a display of knife-throwing; the metal does miss you, but by worryingly slim margins.

Grasmere took a long time to appear but its comforts were much appreciated, particularly a hot drink and breakfast on the green. It is just a gorgeous place to be on a sunny morning. There was the added spectacle of a 52-seater coach trying to transport schoolchildren, so it appeared, directly up to Easedale Tarn. It got about 20 yards, possibly 25, towards Goody Bridge. Then all traffic - pedestrians, cars, the bin wagon, weary locals - had to stop and let the monster escape. Here, also, I considered the option of not going on, as high clouds appeared, with rain forecast later. As it turned out, the rain got held up, probably on the M6. Soon I was stamping up Easedale, a cosy corner where multiple arms of the Lake District cradle the visitor in a landscape of pasture, crag and waterfall.  

My fourth destination was the Langdale skyline, but first, I had to escape Easedale. Turning half left at Easedale Tarn, I emerged near Blea Rigg summit. On the map, routes lead readily to Stickle Tarn. They do on the ground, too, but over about 25 succeeding combinations of pathless bog, blind corner, hidden crag and false top. A really long mile, if that is not nonsense. At least, from Stickle Tarn, the way is clear, straight up the steep rise and left to Harrison Stickle. There were great views back to the southern Lakes and Yorkshire’s Ingleborough and, still, no sign of increasing cloud. From there I entered the strange hinterland of the Langdale Pikes. This makes you wonder if the Pikes were designed on the same logic as an American hotel; the front all bold lines and striking profiles; the rear largely drab and given mainly to drainage goods. The stretch to Stake Pass, Angle Tarn and Esk Hause is easy underfoot, with upland views, from the rough centre of the Lakes, out to the extremes.

I was now heading towards England’s highest point, Scafell Pike. As Langdale and Borrowdale recede, the swooping lines of the fells above Wasdale appear and then lonely Eskdale. And then, for the last half mile, it is best to look down at your feet. Boulders, boulders and boulders. The summit designers must have ordered a job lot, mainly in the shape of monster reject potato chips, some chunky, some French Fries, plateful after plateful. Every gap is a potential ankle trap. I encountered here a young couple, who were descending and clearly de-coupling under the strain. He was merely fed up to the back teeth, she incandescent; it was clearly all his fault, poor soul. Three ups and two downs get you to the summit and you realise you have been concentrating intensely for over 20 minutes. There were clear views all round, particularly West to the Isle of Man, and the usual summit gaggle, but I moved on rapidly.

 

My next target was Scafell Crag. It is much more than the biggest, nastiest and most complex cliff in the area; it has a wealth of history and folklore. Quieter and quieter it got as I picked my way down the boulderfield down from Scafell Pike, as parties headed right for Wasdale Head or veered left for Foxes Tarn. By the time I reached Mickledore there was an absolute silence and it was thoroughly spooky. Not a soul on the climbs, no-one in the dark and dangerous looking Lord’s Rake, cowering under that crooked finger of doom at the head of the first rise. The safety advice seems to be to stay out and, this day, everyone was doing so. The whole amphitheatre was deserted; brilliant. Hollow Stones was a slithery, dusty mess, but the path led down to Wasdale and the end of my route.

Now, there are many things in life that are described as iconic; the view up to Wasdale Head actually meets the requirements. Those interlocking gable skylines are instantly emblematic for the whole Lake District. The image can be created through seven or eight strokes of a pen. An icon, and my seventh Wonder alright. From Wastwater, however, it is a long, long walk out towards the coast. And the sun continued to beat down as I tramped westward. There are copious choices of route and it is not as flat as I wanted it to be. And now for something ironic; I had successfully kept myself watered up through 14 hours of lovely sunshine, over the fells, through using upland streams. Now, the valley seemed dry, at least until I sank a pint of juice at Santon Bridge. From there I wanted to go via the Saxon Cross at Irton but the Irton Hall estate’s signage didn’t exactly facilitate the use of footpaths across their patch. Research indicates there to have been an access dispute dating back to, wait for it, 1899. So, back and then round by road I went, cross and footsore. My target was the National Park boundary - 23 hours from the other side near Stainton. My destination was Holmrook and the thoroughly welcoming and comfortable Lutwidge Arms. Journey’s end.

So, if you really only have 24 hours available in the Lake District and want to see the best of it, there is your challenge. Go and do it. There is accommodation at both ends, there are supplies in the middle and the scenery varies constantly, from the beautiful to the spectacular. Yes, it is a mighty long way, but it is completely and utterly worth it. So, go and do it.

The 7 Wonders of the Lake District? What would be your nominations? You could ask a range of visitors and get a range of answers. But there would be much common ground. Just about everyone would mention Grasmere, though perhaps for different reasons. Artists and photographers would make the case for the Head of Ullswater or for the unmistakeable skyline of the Langdales. No walker who has been there forgets Striding Edge and the climbing fraternity would vote for Scafell Crag, both for its ferocious aspect and history. Surely, you can’t leave out the roof of England, Scafell Pike, and the view up Wasdale justifies, for once, the term iconic. And what do these 7 have in common? They lie, roughly along a SW / NE axis of the National Park. So, link them together and you might have a 24 hour challenge and a scenic feast.

So, that was the thought as I left a warm pub in Stainton - there’s a regular bus from Penrith station - crossed into the National Park and started heading South West. There are unavoidable road lengths here but the scenery is varied, thick and lush, England at its green and pleasant best. A stately home – Dalemain, a furtive fisherman in the Eamont, then chucking-out time from the pubs at Pooley Bridge. From there, in full moonlight, scenic not spooky, my route took me along the shores of Ullswater. I recall somewhere, surprising a young deer, on the unexpected, lake - side of a fence. Soon after midnight I found a quiet corner for a brief bivvi, near Sandwick, the only place where I have seen red squirrels in the wild. Not this trip; I wanted to wait for better light for one of the best of the lakeside paths, round to the head of Ullswater. Dawn hadn’t quite got the lights fully on as I caught sight of my first landmark, the view across the lake to St Sunday Crag and the Helvellyn range. Warm sunshine was forecast, so, as I crossed the beck to Patterdale I saw cooling early murk as a plus. 

Now for the second Wonder, Striding Edge. Up, up, along and up goes the path, across the steep northern wall of Grisedale, towards the most well-known gap in any wall. Beyond, in a boiling mist, lay the Edge. It was deserted – it was 6am - and throwing strange shapes and shadows in the steam as I scrambled up and along the stickle bricks used to form the crest. Then, just as I completed the climb down off the last bluff, a vivid blue light appeared and the mist cleared spectacularly. The view back was the classic view east along the knife-edge. And up to the summit I went, waiting for the big view west. And there was…. nothing. Well, just that vivid blue and the brightest of sunshine above an unending pile of cotton wool. The daft thing was that I had remembered that a spring lay along the line towards Pillar, 300 metres away. So I went looking for a Pillar-shaped piece of cotton wool. Yes, I failed, and so started to descend. And now I met company, in the shape of a glory. My shadow, surrounded by a rainbow, was keeping pace with me along the path. Not just for a few seconds but, in 3 stretches, a total of 10 or 15 minutes. So I now have a picture that demonstrates, I would say, that the sun does indeed shine out of my rear quarters. Less clever was my being distracted sufficiently to end up heading to Wythburn as a route to Grasmere. This did not cost much time but I cannot recommend walking along Dunmail Raise road. It is like being the assistant in a display of knife-throwing; the metal does miss you, but by worryingly slim margins.

Grasmere took a long time to appear but its comforts were much appreciated, particularly a hot drink and breakfast on the green. It is just a gorgeous place to be on a sunny morning. There was the added spectacle of a 52-seater coach trying to transport schoolchildren, so it appeared, directly up to Easedale Tarn. It got about 20 yards, possibly 25, towards Goody Bridge. Then all traffic - pedestrians, cars, the bin wagon, weary locals - had to stop and let the monster escape. Here, also, I considered the option of not going on, as high clouds appeared, with rain forecast later. As it turned out, the rain got held up, probably on the M6. Soon I was stamping up Easedale, a cosy corner where multiple arms of the Lake District cradle the visitor in a landscape of pasture, crag and waterfall.  

My fourth destination was the Langdale skyline, but first, I had to escape Easedale. Turning half left at Easedale Tarn, I emerged near Blea Rigg summit. On the map, routes lead readily to Stickle Tarn. They do on the ground, too, but over about 25 succeeding combinations of pathless bog, blind corner, hidden crag and false top. A really long mile, if that is not nonsense. At least, from Stickle Tarn, the way is clear, straight up the steep rise and left to Harrison Stickle. There were great views back to the southern Lakes and Yorkshire’s Ingleborough and, still, no sign of increasing cloud. From there I entered the strange hinterland of the Langdale Pikes. This makes you wonder if the Pikes were designed on the same logic as an American hotel; the front all bold lines and striking profiles; the rear largely drab and given mainly to drainage goods. The stretch to Stake Pass, Angle Tarn and Esk Hause is easy underfoot, with upland views, from the rough centre of the Lakes, out to the extremes.

I was now heading towards England’s highest point, Scafell Pike. As Langdale and Borrowdale recede, the swooping lines of the fells above Wasdale appear and then lonely Eskdale. And then, for the last half mile, it is best to look down at your feet. Boulders, boulders and boulders. The summit designers must have ordered a job lot, mainly in the shape of monster reject potato chips, some chunky, some French Fries, plateful after plateful. Every gap is a potential ankle trap. I encountered here a young couple, who were descending and clearly de-coupling under the strain. He was merely fed up to the back teeth, she incandescent; it was clearly all his fault, poor soul. Three ups and two downs get you to the summit and you realise you have been concentrating intensely for over 20 minutes. There were clear views all round, particularly West to the Isle of Man, and the usual summit gaggle, but I moved on rapidly.

My next target was Scafell Crag. It is much more than the biggest, nastiest and most complex cliff in the area; it has a wealth of history and folklore. Quieter and quieter it got as I picked my way down the boulderfield down from Scafell Pike, as parties headed right for Wasdale Head or veered left for Foxes Tarn. By the time I reached Mickledore there was an absolute silence and it was thoroughly spooky. Not a soul on the climbs, no-one in the dark and dangerous looking Lord’s Rake, cowering under that crooked finger of doom at the head of the first rise. The safety advice seems to be to stay out and, this day, everyone was doing so. The whole amphitheatre was deserted; brilliant. Hollow Stones was a slithery, dusty mess, but the path led down to Wasdale and the end of my route.

Now, there are many things in life that are described as iconic; the view up to Wasdale Head actually meets the requirements. Those interlocking gable skylines are instantly emblematic for the whole Lake District. The image can be created through seven or eight strokes of a pen. An icon, and my seventh Wonder alright. From Wastwater, however, it is a long, long walk out towards the coast. And the sun continued to beat down as I tramped westward. There are copious choices of route and it is not as flat as I wanted it to be. And now for something ironic; I had successfully kept myself watered up through 14 hours of lovely sunshine, over the fells, through using upland streams. Now, the valley seemed dry, at least until I sank a pint of juice at Santon Bridge. From there I wanted to go via the Saxon Cross at Irton but the Irton Hall estate’s signage didn’t exactly facilitate the use of footpaths across their patch. Research indicates there to have been an access dispute dating back to, wait for it, 1899. So, back and then round by road I went, cross and footsore. My target was the National Park boundary - 23 hours from the other side near Stainton. My destination was Holmrook and the thoroughly welcoming and comfortable Lutwidge Arms. Journey’s end.

So, if you really only have 24 hours available in the Lake District and want to see the best of it, there is your challenge. Go and do it. There is accommodation at both ends, there are supplies in the middle and the scenery varies constantly, from the beautiful to the spectacular. Yes, it is a mighty long way, but it is completely and utterly worth it. So, go and do it.

 

 

 

 


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