September: Hilltops & Lakeshores!

As summer is beginning to fade into the earlier night skies, it really drives my momentum to make the most of the nicer weather and to appreciate whatever walks I manage to get on, camera in tow or not. I did however have plans for the end of the month, with my mum and I planning a couple of days staying in the Western Lakes, and luckily for us the good weather we missed last month arrived for our time away! Looking back over this month, those adventures I did have were more memorable than going out walking at every given dry moment would have been.

Finally, after god knows how long we've waited, I finally succeeded in walking up The Old Man Of Coniston with my Grandad and my mum! I've wanted to do this walk with my Grandad as he lives in Coniston and I have always referred to him jokingly as The Old Man, and their house resides on the main walking route up the fell from the village which is also fitting! Whenever we had previously planned to do this walk the weather always interfered, but at the beginning of September there was only meant to be a slight drizzle of rain so we decided to bite the bullet as we'd be waiting forever for a completely dry day! Boy, were we wrong to trust the weather forecast - the bad weather started about halfway up our climb and once we descended the rain and cloud eased off - typical! Due to the bad weather we only walked The Old Man, our initial plan being to wander to Wetherlam and down the Coppermines and then this changed to Dow Crag as the rain gained momentum; rather we ended up cutting down past Goats Water as the visibility rapidly declined. We had climbed the fell that we had intended to so none of us minded heading back to my Grandads so we could get changed into warm clothes, afterall we can always come back to tick off the other peaks! Still, we had a fantastic walk and it makes even more so memorable for how bloomin' wet and windy it was!

We began our ascent from the Walna Scar car park on the main track which runs through rocky outcrops and unmanicured fields of bracken, primarily following the course of a small beck towards the Eastern side of the fell where the Coppermines lie. The views here are stunning, each curve of the rocky outcrops were accentuated by the low grey cloud which was lingering between the larger mountain tops and behind you Coniston Water slips into view now and again. Once the terrain began to slowly get steeper underfoot, the surroundings changed from the rusty bracken to green verges amongst the shards of grey slate which rapidly increased in number with every step you took. This part of the walk is really interesting as there are still some building work and machinery used when mining for Copper and slate in the area dotted along the path. One part opens up to several dismantled dwellings that overlook the Coppermine Valley, with many people sheltering from the increasing rain in the remaining doorways. Whilst we were passing through the old buildings and derelict machinery, the clouds opened up and allowed Wetherlam to be bathed in a warm sunlight, but this had soon changed back to the miserable rain once we reached Low Water. After grabbing a few pictures from beside the edge of Low Water, we continued on our way up to the peak, with the steep path upwards being occasionally outlined by the colourful jackets of the walkers who were making the journey in front of us despite the miserable weather and low cloud. This side of the mountain seemed to be relatively sheltered from the wind and rain, but the occasional corner would feel like stepping into an ice bath or suddenly I couldn't see through my glasses due to the rain. I found that the rain and cloud covering the top of the Old Man made the ascent easier to climb, and somewhat less steep in places as you couldn't see what you still had to climb!

Once we reached the top, the rain seemed to hit us from all directions and the wind was bitterly cold on my hands. We may not have been able to see land, but I loved the feeling of standing in the clouds as we were surrounded by nothing but grey. We quickly got a photo of us on the top with the trig point before heading towards Dow Crag and the routes towards Walna Scar Road. With nothing to shelter us from the wind and rain, it was an extremely soggy walk across the pass, and visibility even with my glasses on was so low that I found it easier to take them off, and I can't see far without them! We stopped to quickly grab something to eat and a swig of our flasks for a fleeting moment of warmth at my Grandad's usual rest spot, and this is when we decided to descend via Goats Water rather than Dow Crag as at least we will be somewhat sheltered in the valley! The rain was harsh as we slowly descended, with parts of the water slowly peeking out from under the low cloud, and as I hate taking my camera out in the rain I kept my camera tucked away for this part of the walk. The footing was also quite precarious in some places which having a camera in hand would have only hindered, it seems there has been a recent landslide as both my mum and grandad commented how this used to be a green pasture with an easy going path. We primarily followed some of the people walking ahead of us, as it was unclear to see which route to take due to some of the larger boulders residing near the water's edge. It was fascinating watching the rain and cloud move across the water, clearing only once of twice to allow a snippet of Dow Crag. Once we reached the end of the water, we began our loop back towards the car park through similar wildlife and nature which we had passed on the other side of the fell.

The walk back down this side of the fell was much more rugged under foot than even the higher parts of the Old Man as it took you through small gaps between large boulders and over piles where loose stones falling from the fells had collected. As the stony terrain eased into the bracken filled pastures, the sky began to gently take on a blue hue and the sunlight escaping the clouds warmed the raindrops resting on our jackets. By the time we reached the car park the sky had completely changed, bar from a small part of cloud still lingering at the top of the Old Man. Still, as I said my Grandad, on this walk I only needed to take one photo: Him and myself at the top of the Old Man. It may not have been the picturesque background I'd imagined for that photo, but I think that just makes our journey to the top that bit more special!

After I dropped several hints and much indiscreet pointing at the Western Lake District on my Wainwright map, my mum and I decided to visit the Crummock Water area for this years little break away. Last year we had visited Whitehaven and St Bees, and my mum was eager to visit more of the coast so we decided that if we stayed in Cockermouth we had access to what we both wanted to do this holiday! We knew for definite we wanted to visit at least three lakes: Crummock Water, Buttermere and Loweswater, and at least one Wainwright, Rannerdale Knotts. One of the days we were due to be in the area, the forecast wasn't so great so we figured we would spend that day by the coast to capture the moody sea.

As we arrived a little too early to check-in to the hotel, we decided to head straight for the lakes and assess what we were going to do that day from there. As soon as Crummock came into view we couldn't resist pulling over and taking in the view over the wall before continuing to find a suitable parking space. We ended up driving to Buttermere village and turning around as the suggesting parking was all full, but when we reached Crummock again, there was a fantastic parking space by the steps to the shore which we managed to nab. As our suggested route for Rannerdale Knotts started from Buttermere, we decided to spend the day around the lakes in the area instead. We wandered down the shore on the edge of the water before finding some rocks near the small wooded area to rest upon and eat some lunch. It was delightfully quiet at Crummock despite the amount of cars parked as we marvelled at the clear water, noticing little minnow fish in the water nibbling at small flies. From where we were sat we could see Rannerdale Knotts, with a constant trail of people bobbing up between the knolly felltop, and as we had a magnificent view from where were sat, we could only imagine what wonderful sights could be seen from up there! After sitting a while we decided to wander around Buttermere, and we made our way along a path which brought us out to the bottom of Sour Milk Gill which runs down the side of High Stile. This waterfall can be seen cutting straight down through evergreen trees from a distance, and at the bottom of the falls there is a little viewpoint which crosses over the bottom of the flow. The footpath towards the start of Buttermere took you along the edge of the evergreen trees which hid some of the surrounding mountains from view but the warm blue of the water could be seen between the leaves.

The walk around Buttermere was absolutely stunning, especially when the branches of the trees left a clearing which opened up to the lake reflecting the surrounding mountains. We were very lucky to have several stretches of the walk through the woodland with ourselves, tending to pass several other walkers in a small time frame. Quite often where the lakeshore would allow us, we wandered down to the water's edge to take in the marvellous scenery without the tree branches blocking any of the view and I can see why this area is such a popular place to visit! From one of the bankings we watched a bird dive under the water for several minutes before returning to the surface with a large fish in its mouth, triumphant at its catch! Within this section of woodland we also spotted some fly agaric mushrooms hiding on the banking - the red and white typical fairy mushrooms - which I've never seen in real life so I was thrilled to spot these! Even as the path opened out onto the bottom of the fells residing against the mere there was still so much to see, with Fleetwith Pike standing proud in the background. We had heard about the Highland Cows in the area and were hoping they'd be close to the path but as we wandered towards the farmland we could see two walking in the water to cool themselves from the hot sun which was cute to watch! Once reaching the other side of Buttermere, we spotted a bench overlooking the water on a slight mound which was the perfect place to stop and have our 'second lunch'. Up here we could see people wandering up Fleetwith Pike and a line of people making their way along the spikes of Haystacks. This side of the water seemed to be much shorter to walk, and it took you back into woodland where there were more fly agaric mushrooms hiding just before the walkway cut through the rock. When we reached the northern end of Buttermere, there were several people at the shore so we decided to find somewhere quieter on Crummock to finish our flasks of coffee.

When driving back up the road away from Crummock, we noticed a public footpath next to a pull by the side of the road and we couldn't resist having a nosy. The footpath led you to the top of a hill where there was a bench carefully positioned to allow for stunning views over Crummock and Mellbreak fell. We sat here whilst we pondered what to do with the rest of the afternoon, and we decided to head out to Loweswater before checking in to the hotel. We managed to park up by the edge of Loweswater and wandered back up part of the road to find a cut down to the side of the water. The sunlight was hitting directly on the water, but the trees gave us shade and framed the view beautifully. We wandered along, wandering down onto some small clearings where the water was sparkling underneath the sun, and in the distance fells we could see some paragliders attempting to take off, although I don't think the wind was playing ball! It was so quiet down here, with barely any cars passing on the road behind us that it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere! We sat on one of the shores before the breeze carried some chill to it, before meandering back along the path we had just previously walked, and finally headed to the hotel to check in and get an evening meal.

The next day the forecast was due to be somewhat overcast and eventually rain later on, so we decided that fell walking would probably be best saved for tomorrow when the sun was meant to be out in full force. The moody skies and cold breeze of the day was however an enjoyable setting to walk along the seashore, so we headed out to Maryport and wandered along the grassy coastal tops before making our way along the pebbled shore towards the promenade. I love slowly meandering along beaches, whether rocky or sandy, looking for interesting things which had washed ashore and at Maryport there were several pebbles in a soft green which kept on catching my eye. When the skies cleared somewhat cleared, the beginning of Scotland's magnificent mountains began to appear across the Solway Coast. Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped off at Cockermouth near the Memorial Gardens on the edge of the River Derwent. We wandered along the river until it opened up into a wider bank, with parts of the old mills to the left and the regal ruins of Cockermouth castle standing proud on a mound in between the river Derwent and the river Cocker to the right. You aren't able to visit the ruins of the castle but the passage of time was evident on the decrepit keep from across the river regardless.

As we had hoped, it was a lovely and sunny day on our final full day in the area so we got up early and made our way to Rannerdale Knotts to beat the rush. After double checking the route, we decided to try and park where we had the other day, and to take advantage of the early morning sun and walk between the two lakes first rather than after our climb. Once reaching the heart of Buttermere village, our walk took us up the side of Mill Beck through a tranquil little woodland which disguised the steepening gradient underneath our feet. Upon leaving the woodland, it was a steep incline through moorland and bracken towards the peak of the hill where several footpaths leading to Wainwright walks separate from each other. We turned left and began to cross several knolls in the fell top, some parts rather steep and stony underfoot. On one of the larger knots before the principle point of the fell you could see all three of the local fells and behind was dominated by the larger Wainwright fells such as Grassmoor. As the view was stunning here, we decided this was the perfect spot to stop to eat our sandwiches and have a brew before reaching the top. The sunlight caused Buttermere to be basked in hazy light, but Crummock Water and Loweswater were saturated in colour. When we reached the main top there were several people so we found a quiet spot to have another coffee to celebrate our climb, before descending down and leaving views of Buttermere behind us. The decline here was extremely steep in places that it made inconvenient to bask in the glorious view, with Crummock growing in size and Loweswater becoming a tiny spec on the horizon. We could see that no one was near our rocks at Crummock Water so once we left the fell we settled ourselves against the water for the final time during in our stay.

Similar to our last break away, the day we were due to check out of the hotel was a complete wash out with heavy rains and bitter winds! Not wanting to head home too early, we decided to have a little wander through Keswick town and a quick visit down to the shore at Ullswater. We wandered down to the shore and then cut through a little woodland which had trees protruding out of the overflow of the Lake before turning back into the town. We had noticed signs for Fitz Park which frames the River Greta on our way into Keswick, and as the rain had eased just a miniscule, we detoured through here before heading into the park. You could see that the Autumn colours were soon about to burst here, particularly in the bedding that followed the several paths in the park. After leaving Keswick, we decided to stop off on the Eastern side of Thirlmere as we had heard there was lots of interesting things hidden around here, but it was so wet we decided to turn around head back home, but promising to return on a drier day!

I know autumn is due next month, but I just hope we get some of the summer weather that passed us by!