Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lily Tarn – There and back again – An Adventure on Loughrigg Fell

It was rumoured (weather forecast) that it was going to be another reasonable day and the MapBearer suggested a walk from another Bob Allen book: Short Walks in and around the Lake District.  The one we chose was Lily Tarn on Loughrigg Fell from Rydal. You only have to climb up around 150m and the level of exertion was billed as low, but with some excellent views over Lake Windermere and Ambleside. It was one we had done three times before, without any real challenges in terms of navigation (famous last words). We should have been wary on reading the blurb in the book which has this to say:

Loughrigg Fell is a mountain range in miniature and although its topography can be very confusing …delightful place from which to view many surround higher fells”

This was a short walk of only 3.5 miles/ 5.6Km and doable in around 2 hours. So an ideal walk before our drive down to stay with my Mum.  As you might notice from the map, there was another unplanned detour. We parked in a Pay and Display car park near Rydal Water. Fortunately we played it safe and rather than think we would actually do the walk in two hours we went for the next parking time-slot of four hours.

I have stuck the route onto Bike Route Toaster (BRT) if you want to download the walk, although you might not want to add the detour. It adds another 1Km in length and a climb (and descent) of 104m.  According to the BRT route our walk was 8.1Km/5.1 miles with 260m of ascent/descent.  The first time we did this walk was back in August 98, fifteen years ago.

Map of our Walk on Loughrigg Fell

This time around we managed to have breakfast (in my case I had given up on the fried stuff and just had toast and marmalade) and checked out and get to the car park at a reasonably early hour. The car park near Rydal Water is relatively small and so we thought it prudent, since alternative places to park would have added extra time to the walk.   As it turns out we were about the fifth car in so it worked.  The weather forecast had indicated no rain – but in the Lakes…

There was a misty rain so we packed our waterproof coats in the rucksack rather than put them on, it was also quite warm.

The first bit of the walk is along a small road just off Pelter Bridge alongside the River Rothay (Under Loughrigg Road).  Pretty quickly you come across these wonderful stepping stones, but don’t take them as part of this particular walk. Mind you in the past we have always had to walk across and back so I couldn’t let that family tradition fail now. My wife felt that discretion was the better part of valour and watched as I fell in.

No I didn’t fall in, I did walk across though and back.

Stepping Stones across the River Rothay

The stones are pretty solid and more or less flat, so they aren’t too difficult to cross. The river is quite wide though.  The stones were wet as well, there was a lot of grey cloud around and it was shedding water.

Stepping Stones across the River Rothay

I reckon there are about 21 stepping stones, depending upon whether you count the ends of not.  Normally when we visit the Lake District we bring our walking poles, which are actually quite useful, both for balance and for poking the boggy bits of path.  The trouble is with our lack of preparation for the visit they remained at home along with the OS map and compass and map case…

There are a small number of guest houses along the road.  The one you can see reflected in the Water is called Stepping Stones.  At some point it must have come up for sale as here is an Estate Agents brochure for the house, with a guide price of £1.59m. I don’t think it is up for sale any more though.

A little further up the road you then reach another Guest House – Foxghyll Country House and take a footpath which take you to the right of the house and gardens, and up Fox Ghyll, towards Loughrigg Fell.  Most of the climbing on this particular walk is done at this stage, as long as you don’t get lost that is.  After a while you start to clear the trees. The Rowans look good at this time of year. The path is quite steep but sure and steady.

Fox Gyll

When you reach the end of the Fox Ghyll path things start to become a little more complicated. There are quite a few paths in the area and we joined the main bridleway through a little sooner than we should have done. Without a map or compass it is easy to get confused by route instructions that are relative to each other. In this case we weren’t sure quite which tarn we were supposed to be at. I say we but…

Have I mentioned how busy the Lake District is at this time of year – at least on the Lower Fells.  Twenty odd people came up from the other direction and headed up to Loughrigg Fell. The path to the left of the picture is the main bridleway which takes you from Ambleside to Loughrigg Tarn.  Many of the walking routes are well used and have been strengthened to cope with the significant footfall.  This bridleway is pretty good and well-cycleable and yes we saw cyclists up here as well..

Loughrigg Fell

Because of our confusion and because we joined the bridleway early we reached a tarn – which was called small in the book but looked quite large. That’s where we should have turned off, but didn’t.  The strange thing is that as we walked past the “turning”, a little path over a stream, I mentioned that it reminded me of a path we had walked on before… But I assumed was on another walk.

Then some marvellous views appeared so we stopped worrying about the route and carried on. Although the pictures show a lot of cloud any water in the air had dried up and it was really quite war, I sweltered.  The division of labour was that I carried the rucksack and my wife carried the book with the route in it – hence Mapbearer.

Lake Windermere

The bridleway we were following was to the right of the wall in this picture.  We had half expected to go down so we did.  What’s worse we passed a sheepfold and there was one mentioned in the book so we turned off. At this point we should have been heading south-east, we were heading north-west!   As I write this looking at the 25K OS map it all looks pretty obvious where we were supposed to be, there is nothing like hindsight and a decent map.

Ivy Cragg – Loughrigg Fell

Did I mentioned that the Lakes were busy? I can’t remember seeing cyclists on the walks in the past – this time around we saw cyclists on both “walks” along with loads of people. One passing walker noticed that my wife was carrying a Bob Allen book and mentioned that they had the same one. So perhaps we need to blame Bob for the popularity of these routes.


Walking on Loughrigg Fell

More of Lake Windermere coming into view – which should not really have been happening

One thing was true – the views all around really were magnificent.

The (wrong) view from Loughrigg Fell

At the wrong sheepfold were we turned off downhill, various stiles looked new and the fields had been sub-divided with extra gates to maintain the right of way. So we carried on, slightly pleased to be heading down hill.  Slightly worried that it didn’t seem all that familiar.

Lake Windermere from Loughrigg Fell

We eventually came out on a wide (for the Lake District) road – which meant a main road. Now one of the great things about Bob Allen walks is that they almost never take to the main roads. So the obvious conclusion was that we were lost, or at least not where we thought we should be. So I resorted to technology, out came my Galaxy S4 – with off-line maps ;-) .  We had come out onto the A593 near Skelwith Bride (a place we visited on the last walk).  Looking at our location on the phone we had two choices – walk on the main road the long way round or go back up the hill and take a more direct route but back up the flippin’ hill vertiginous mountain.   The thought of walking along the main road was not a pleasant one. So we turned around and went back the way we had come. I got my head down and marched up, my wife adopted a more leisurely pace and took in more of the scenery.

She saw an Alpaca or two, I got back to the top more quickly.  I did take a picture of this horse chestnut starting to look very autumnal.  It seems that the leaf miner mite isn’t so much of a problem up here at the moment.  Perhaps it just hasn’t reached these parts. It does well in well-watered places and at low levels apparently.

Autumnal Horse Chestnut Tree near Brunt How

As is often the case having to re-trace a route is harder in the mind that it is in the doing.  It wasn’t long before we were back at the point where we really should have turned off the bridleway and down and over a small stream.  This is NT property with Rights of Way-paths and quite a few other paths that have developed over the years, so it can be a little confusing. The book was first published in 1994 and was new when we first started using it. Our goal was to reach a Tarn called Lily Tarn – I was pretty sure we would remember that one.  This view looks back along to Ivy Crag and the wrong bridleway can be seen running below it.

Ivy Crag (mid ground)

According to the Bob Allen route guide Lily Tarn was not far away but there were still some undulations. We Flatlanders forget how other parts of the UK can be a bit lumpy. There it was – Lily Tarn.  It looks the same, although the tree in the middle seems to have grown a bit. There is now a bench alongside the Tarn as well for weary MapBearers.

You can see Lake Windermere behind and to the right.

Lily Tarn with Lake Windermere in the background

Lily Tarn - again

Lily Tarn – taken Summer 2003 (10 years previous) – the tree is smaller


We then carried on in the actual direction suggested by the route, past another small tarn. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to tarns in the Lake District

Small Tarn, near Lily Tarn

The next task was to find a stile over a wall and head downwards.  Except it was no longer a stile – a gate had been set in the wall as the result of a commemorative donation. Ambleside is in the background.

Where’s the stile? Loughrigg Fell

I used the wall to rest my camera to take a picture of Ambleside and the church.

Ambleside from Loughrigg Fell

The way down seemed steeper than the way up. Muscles you forget about as a Flatland dweller quickly start complaining.

When following a description of a route it always helps when there are landmarks on the way, particularly ones that endure. This bridge (or something very similar) was here the last time.

I don’t remember the stone steps though.  Lots of paths have been reinforced up here in the lakes.

Little Wooden Foot Bridge – Loughrigg Fell

The route then takes some odd little twists and turns and then takes, what it suggests is a little-used path. Well from the state of the path it is now a well-used path.   Although we didn’t see anyone on the path itself. You end up on a “lovely sloping field”.  By the time I had gotten down the field my legs knew about it. I reckon it was more than 1 in 1 (45o), a quick look at the map suggests it drops 50m in around 60m distance, so on average not as steep.  Our walking boots were fine – we had no problems getting traction, it is just you have to tense your legs all the way down.

We passed someone coming up the hill and he had to grab tufts of grass to pull himself up.

The route then carries along Under Loughrigg Road, which was the one we’d first walked along.  We were stopped and asked the way by a walker who wanted to know would she get to Ambleside that way. Probably – was our answer. Ambleside was in that direction but we tend not to walk on roads that much.

This looks like an old house-cum-barn. A pity it is no longer in use.

Stone Barn – Under Loughrigg

We then walked past the Stepping Stones and back to the car park – which was quite full.

On the walk up to Lily Tarn and back it was surprisingly warm. I was very warm as I couldn’t be bothered to take my fleece of as I was carrying the rucksack. So I was looking forward to changing my t-shirt although for some reason we decided to drive to Grasmere first.

I think part of the reason that my wife chose that particular walk was both for its scenic beauty and proximity to Grasmere and gingerbread.

It is just around the corner from the car park (5Km/3 miles) so we popped there for lunch and to buy some the Grasmere gingerbread – which is delicious…

What we hadn’t reckoned on is just how busy the Lake District is with tourists. Grasmere was teeming and the car parks were full. We persevered and found a car park on Red Bank. It was busy but we found a space, which I could just about get the Disco into. We had run out of change for the car park, fortunately we were able to pay by card. Thank goodness for technology eh? It was bliss changing into a fresh shirt.

We then set of into the small centre, looking for somewhere to eat and the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop. The old brain cells must have been boosted by the morning’s exercise and we found the shop straightaway. Although it was sneaked away in a corner (near the Church).

Grasmere Gingerbread Shop

I did send this picture around, but not straight away. Despite the desperate need to buy Gingerbread my wife only bought a small tin. By the time my pictures had been sent from my phone on the 1 bit per hour super-slow speed cellular network up in the Lakes we had moved onto a restaurant for lunch.

So it was too late to respond to my son’s message – buy a big tin!.

We had lunch at the Riverside Café where I had tuna mayo sandwiches that were delicious. (So delicious that I had tuna-may rolls for lunch the next day down at Mum’s house). I also had a Toblerone Crunch Cake that was delicious as well. It was soft and gooey, unlike Toblerone chocolate.

I mentioned the small tin of Gingerbread – well when we got home it pretty much vanished straight away. I only got one bit. My son was right we should have bought a bigger tin.

Small Tin of Gingerbread – EMPTY


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