Sunday, 13 February 2011

A Late Walk around Crummock Water

8th February 2011

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
However the streams were pretty spectacular as they roared down the fell side.

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.

Ashness Bridge

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. well worth a visit for the whole family.

Honister Pass

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 met a man and woman walking back to Buttermere who told us that the next section was very boggy and they didn't tell a lie. Anyone who has crossed very boggy ground adopts one of the two methods of walking. One is to try to carefully tread your way across and then the second you stop to look for good footing you start to sink, but its always one foot that sinks more than the other. In order to extricate this you push down on the other foot which sinks in further and, as the first foot pulls free with an audible plop you are back were you started and have to repeat the process. Eventually your boots and gaiters are peat covered blobs on the end of your legs. The other way is to try and quickly run and jump between the soft and firmer parts of the bog which gives the impression of a demented dancer to a casual observer. This approach does however work, very ungainly but better.

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
The late afternoon slowly headed towards dusk but the last redness clung to the fells as we made our way to the northern end of the lake.

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
One of my spare tops became a pretty expensive towel as we sat on rocks in the now almost dark woods. I suppose I must have a soft heart as I let Keith use it, the same man who had been taking photos of me wading across hoping that I would fall in!!

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
Technical Bits.

Elevation Profile of Route

Total length of walk: 7.6 miles

Time 3 hrs including taking photographs and wading rivers.

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