A Few Days in the Lake District (2013-06-29/07-06)

Creative Commons License
A Few Days in the Lake District, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

It was an easy journey to the Lake District in Cumbria, north-west England, where there are 16 lakes and over 200 mountains, the highest being Scafell Pike at 977 metres, all in ana rea of 6800 square kilometres. I was to stay at Monk Coniston, man old mansion built on the site of an old monastery from which it gets its name. It is situated at the sheltered northern end of Conistonwater. There is a strange tradition in that part of the world to name the lakes the larger lakes "water"; only one in the whole area is called a "lake".

In a wall of a nearby farm we saw some alcoves, called bee-boles. During the winter the farmer would place the bee hives there to shelter them from the weather; and in the spring they would be taken up to collect the pollen from the mountain flowers until autumn.

The house attracted a series of poets and writers, e.g. Tennyson, Ruskin, and also Lewis Carroll. In the Victorian era as in many such houses, a collection of foreign trees was created in an arboretum, but in the early part of the 20th century, the house and farm became neglected, until Beatrix Potter bought it, immediately selling half to the National Trust. After her death, the Trust received the rest. Recently, they recommended adding trees to the collection. One of the new ones, of which it is proud, is the very rare Wollemia pine (Wollemia nobilis). It is said that only 100 remain in the wild in a small area in Australia.

On Sunday we set out to climb the local summit of Wetherlam – the name is said to mean a lame lamb. On the way we had our first sight of the well-known Herdwick sheep. The adults have a white or grey fleece, and always a white face. Their lambs are born completely black, but within the first year their wool changes to white.

In past times the mountains were home to many mines and quarries, like this one for slate, reachable along a narrow path through the rocks. The hills had been exploited since even before the Romans lived there, mostly for lead, iron, copper and slate.

We continued through steep-sided valleys and across a Tilberthwaite Gill one well-kept paths. As we approached the final climb to the summit the cluds thickened and wind strengthened. But is stayed warm and humid, and did not rain. The view ws good downwards, but not so good to the horizon.

We descended along Coppermines valley where the mines were worked from Roman times to the 1800s. The minerals in the area were the reason they stayed; their value enabled the emperor Hadrian to build a wall across the whole country from coast to coast to keep the Scots out.

The following day, a bus took us to Ambleside before we started our excursion to the top of Red Screes. The rocks on one side have a reddish colour which the mountain its name. Hills attract rain, which falls creating streams, and water on slopes means waterfalls. We set out along the valley of Stock Ghyll, where we saw our first force or waterfall, before we began our long slow ascent up the shoulder of the hill. The higher we were the better the views, until we could look down on Rydal Water, in the middle of which lies Heron Island, to the west, and Kirkstone Pass to the east.

We could see Grisedale Tarn to the north from the summit, from where we "fell" down a very steep slope to the pass at the top of Scandale and made our way en the sunshine, passing several adolescent lambs, back to Ambleside.

On Tuesday the weather didn't cooperate, so I decided that I would join the group staying low that day. We began by passing a working slate quarry, and flowering meadows, before we crossed Slater’s Bridge. The whole mountain is riddled with quarries, so the workers built the bridge to export the slates. A short side visit to Cathedral Quarry showed us a good example of the work done by manual tools.

Further on we came to a Ting Mound, or Ting Moot. These were set up by the Vikings between the 600s and 800s as places, where the court or local government would meet to discuss the important matters of the time. They were located in the centre of each district, and this one is at the centre of the Lake District. An old Roman road passes nearby which provides easy access to the place.

Later in the day we met a group of volunteers, who were repairing the track. All the paths through the mountains are maintained by volunteers, who donate their laobour and time dig out stones and rocks, and fill in marshy areas to allow the path to pass. This group had come from Manchester, two hours away by car.

At half past one after we had passed Blea Tarn, we were drinking at the pub at Dungeon Ghyll.

On Wednesday I walked round Tarn Hows. There used to be three lakes there, but in 1862 the then owner of Monk Coniston decided to construct a dam in order to raise the level of the water and create a single lake out of the three. What we now see is the result, and is one of the most photographed places in England – so much so that one is never alone there now. When I visited, foxgloves were growing through the bracken adding more colour to the various greens.

Afterwards I slowly wandered down to the village of Coniston and further along the lake shore to sit idly on the beach. The lake is almost straight, about 8 kilometres long and less than half a kilometre wide.

Thursday started with rain at the village of Grasmere, but the forecast promised improvement during the day. Soon we were looking at the lake of Grasmere through the mist. We got to the Lion and Lamb, rocks, which, when seen from the correct angle, look like a lion (above) and a lamb (below). We wandered through the light mist all morning, until at the top of Gibson Knott we paused with good views down into Far Easedale.

The ground was wet, marshy and muddy, but we are Britons and continued walking over one hill and on to the next. By mid-morning it was not raining, as we made our way to Calf Crag the highest point of our day, before returning via the low valleys.

We awoke on Friday to sunshine and the best day of the week weatherwise. We were going to the top of the Old Man of Coniston the highest point near the lake. The walk was easy, there was no climbing or similar, beginning with yet another ex-quarry, this one full of water.

Soon we reached Goats Water, which is a typical tarn. The word is derived from the old Scandinavian (tjorn), and means a “tear - which one weeps” representing a small body of water high in the mountains. One can easily see here the barrier created by the ice during the last Ice Age, and shape of the bowl dug out by the glacier. We ate lunch at the top, after which we began our descent along a steep path to another tarn Low Water. Because the way was steeper than the morning going up, it seemed longer. On the way was evidence of more copper mines; one is surprised the mountain is still there..

The following day I went home.

Andy Pepperdine


Creative Commons License
A Few Days in the Lake District, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.