It was throwing it down in Blackburn but the weather forecast for the lakes said the afternoon would be brighter. Faced with the prospect of a definite wet run around Darwen Moors or a possible better afternoon in Buttermere we set off up the M6.
Pete and Daves butty caravan is always our first port of call. It is in the first lay by on the A648 Kendal Road when you leave Junction 37 M6. Bacon and sausage butty and a brew what better way to kick off a day. As we waited a wagon driver came and ordered Spam and egg. Keith looked at me and in silent agreement we knew what we would eat next week.
It was still awful weather but it was only 9:30am so optimism was still high. We decided to that we would kill time and make our way via Ambleside and over Dunmail Raise on the A591 to Thirlmere then take the back road around the Lake. Turn left at NY 325129 and simply follow the narrow road for fantastic views of the lake and Helvellyn range of mountains. Normally I may add as it certainly wasn't today. The road was badly flooded and a smaller car may have had problems.
|Taking the plunge. Photo: Keith Butterworth|
|Full force at Thirlmere|
It obviously not walking weather yet so we thought we would go through Keswick and take the B5289 Borrowdale road and look at the most photographed bridge in the whole Lake District. Ashness Bridge NY 272197. This has appeared on chocolate boxes and calendars the whole world over but not on a day like this. It is however definitely beautiful in summer.
The other thing we noticed was that at Thirlmere is was wet but warm. Here it was really cold, still wet though. Where next ? We could see over to the west the sky was getting a lot brighter so we decided to keep on the B5289 to Borrowdale and keep on it over the Honister Pass. We stopped at the Honister Slate Mine NY226135. This place once echoed to the sounds of hundreds of miners wresting slate from the slopes of and inside the mighty crag of Fleetwith Pike. It is now long closed as a working mine but has been transformed into one of the Lake Districts finest attractions. www.honister-slate-mine.co.uk well worth a visit for the whole family.
It was absolutely freezing as the wind funnelled through the upper reaches of the pass making taking the above photograph a very quick affair. But, there was progress as it had stopped raining. Down the road now to Buttermere in ever improving conditions.
|Breakers on Buttermere|
The wind was still strong and whipped up the waters of the lake but the walk was definitely on. Lunch first as it was nearly 2:00 pm so what better place than a short drive up to Newlands Hause NY192177 and enjoy soup and sandwiches in the car battered by a howling wind. The view made up for it.
|Sunlight breaks over Newlands Valley|
Sunlight was breaking through and over to the west blue sky started to show itself so back down into Buttermere Village and our long awaited walk.
We parked the car on the car park near the little chapel NY176171. The weather was a lot better, dry partially sunny but with a cold wind. It was too late in the day to think about walking the high fells so we decided to walk around Crummock Water. We dressed for wet weather just in case and set off down the road and took the footpath past the Bridge Hotel and through the fields to Scale Bridge which crosses Buttermere Dubs. The river was very high and just a few centimetres from spilling over the enclosing wall in to the footpath. There was plenty of evidence it had done exactly this in the past day as we waded ankle deep in big puddles. The joy of Goretex. Over the bridge we turned right and followed the path with Crummock Water to our right.
|Keith strides out.|
It was a pretty rocky path interspaced with deep puddles that made for slow walking but the atmosphere was really good. It was around 3:00pm and the sun was starting to sink into the west slowly painting a golden glow on the lower fell sides of Grasmoor. Looking back towards Fleetwith Pike and Honister Pass where 2 hours ago we were freezing looked rather beautiful.
|Crummock Water looking back to Fleetwith Pike|
We crossed what was once a small beck that bore sharp evidence of a past flood. It was wide now and in the middle far from either bank was the bridge half buried in gravel. It would not have been a nice place to be when that happened.
|This was once the bridge that spanned a small beck|
On we went until the next once small beck. Here a more balanced approach was needed in order to cross. I think it would have been sensible to put the camera in the rucksack before I started. Keith seemed to be waiting for the plunge and the joy of having the rest of the afternoon in joyous mickey taking. Thankfully I didn't oblige.
|Take it easy. Photo: Keith Butterworth|
|Looking North Crummock Water|
By now we were below the steep slopes of Melbreak rising up from the left side of our path. Its shadow and the approaching evening plummeted the temperature and the wind felt a lot colder. We followed the lake shore until we reached the low dam that marks the end of the lake. The path was flooded here so we had to walk along the dam wall onto and past the pump house and on towards the footbridge near the fish ladder. NY 152208.
Here we encountered a problem. The footbridge was isolated in the middle of the river with water either side of it. We could see the path under the water but at around 30 centimetres deep it was sure to flood into our boots. Goretex boots are brilliant at keeping water out but are also brilliant at keeping it in should you get them filled. There was only one alternative and it was off with boots and socks for a very cold wade to the bridge then the same from the bridge to the other side. It was also akin to walking on needles as the stones were pretty sharp.
|A very cold paddle. Photo: Keith Butterworth|
The feeling of pleasure as I put my warm socks and boots on was indescribable and I sat on a rock feeling the blood return to my feet....lovely and then it hail stoned. Big ones that stung like bees then rattled like a drum solo on the hood of my coat as I frantically rushed to get my rucksack repacked.
The Lake District weather, you never can tell whats coming next.
It was just light enough for us to navigate our way through the woods on the footpath that led eventually to Lanthwaite Farm NY159208 without resorting to our head torches. Here the path joined the main road the B5289 which we trudged quite happily along in the near dark. The cloud had cleared and the sickle moon and starry sky gave enough light to guide us back to Buttermere Village. Light pollution robs us of so much in the towns and cities.
|Winter Evening in Buttermere|
|Elevation Profile of Route|
Total length of walk: 7.6 miles
Time 3 hrs including taking photographs and wading rivers.