The Lakeland Round 1995

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 5 - Buttermere to Borrowdale

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Day 7 - Friday 26th May: Buttermere to Keswick via Grasmoor

Distance: 13.2 miles, Ascent: 4280 ft

Accommodation: Buttermere Y.H.A. - 15.50 Dinner B&B

Whereas it had been very quiet at dinner with only eight takers, the dining room was packed full for breakfast with the influx of a school/college party who had been there all week but who had eaten elsewhere on their last night away. I sat with the two chaps from London who were driving home after breakfast and giving the girl from Ambleside Youth Hostel a lift back there on the way. The two wardens serving breakfast were complete opposites - one never smiled at all and the other had a permanent beam on his face. One of the Londoners put this down to the fact that one was married and the other was not!

My washing was completely dry - even the thick walking socks had dried, so I was well prepared for a few days without having to do any more washing. I decided to look at the big toe on my left foot as the nail was still rather raised due to a blister underneath. I burst the blister with a pin from my sewing kit (it sometimes does come in useful) and released quite a lot of liquid. I should have done this at the start as it relieved the pressure in there and stopped the nail from being constantly pressed by my boot, especially on steep descents. In the fullness of time I expect the nail will come off, but for the moment it was fine.

I got off to a rather leisurely start at 9.45 a.m., as I was taking a little bit of time to come to. I had ordered a packed lunch from the hostel as there didn't seem to be anywhere much to buy such things in the village. It was actually quite a good one, as had been the one from Black Sail, unlike some I have had in the past from some hostels, which is the reason that I try to cater for my own lunches wherever possible.

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Buttermere from Whiteless Pike
Buttermere from Whiteless Pike
Crummock Water and Lowes Water from Whiteless Pike
Crummock Water and Lowes Water
Coledale from Crag Hill with Skiddaw to left, Blencathra to right
Coledale from Crag Hill

The climb up to Whiteless Pike is quite steep, which is never good first thing in the day, but by the time I was halfway up I was beginning to get back into my stride and not finding it such an effort. The weather was quite reasonable - there were a lot of thick clouds about but there were some breaks in them and a few bright patches particularly to the west. In the low land near the coast, it was quite sunny, whereas over the higher fells the clouds were forming and gathering.

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Grisedale Pike and Coledale from Coledale Hawse
Grisedale Pike & Coledale
Keswick and Derwent Water from Grisedale Pike
Keswick & Derwent Water

From Whiteless Pike, the walking was a lot easier with mostly gradual ascents to the other peaks. There were some good views of the coast from Grasmoor and Hopegill Head, and good views of Skiddaw and Keswick from Crag Hill. At times, the wind was bitter and, when I stopped for lunch on Grasmoor, I put on my waterproofs as protection from the icy blasts. The visibility was very good again, with the Solway Firth and the Southern Uplands of Scotland very clearly visible stretching far off to the west, whilst the Isle of Man was very faintly visible amidst some cloud further south. The Cumbrian coast could be plainly seen down to the start of the Coast to Coast walk at St. Bees Head. The route could be traced past the chemical works at Whitehaven and up to Dent Hill.

The last climb of the day was Grisedale Pike giving good views of Skiddaw, Keswick and Derwent Water. The wind was quite strong and, as I got up to take a photograph, I looked round to see my foam plastic mat disappearing across the hillside at high speed. I walked across for a way to see if it had come to rest anywhere but it was nowhere to be seen. It only cost me 1, so it was not a great loss, although I had found it quite useful at times.

The path down from Grisedale was quite steep until the lower ridge was reached, at the end of which another steep climb brought me down to Braithwaite. Rather than walking along the side of the busy main road into Keswick, I studied the map to find footpaths which, although they involved somewhat more walking, were far more pleasant and took me most of the way with only a little road walking. I arrived at the hostel, which is situated right on the riverside close to the town centre, at 6 p.m. and there I bumped into the chap I had met in Black Sail Hut and at Windy Gap - I didn't realise that he was going to be there.

After booking into the hostel, I telephoned Jean to wish her a happy fiftieth birthday. Her plans for going for a pub meal with Jennifer were thwarted by our younger daughter Jen having been off school because she wasn't feeling very well, so she was going to order a take-away to be delivered.

The evening meal was soup, roast chicken and fruit flan with ice cream, and seconds of both the soup and the sweet. Although this is quite a big hostel, it retains a friendly atmosphere. I shared a table with the chap I had met at Black Sail, a couple from Worcester who were spending a couple of nights away from their kids, a chap doing the Cumbrian Way and a Canadian woman who was spending a year seeing the world. Where she comes from she has done some walking in very remote places - one walk was seven days out and seven days back with no habitation on the way. She had to carry all the food and camping equipment for the fortnight, and said she could hardly lift her rucksack.

After dinner, I had a stroll down by the lake as far as Friar's Crag. It was spotting with rain but fortunately didn't get any worse, as I had not brought my waterproofs. There were quite a few events being organised by the National Trust for its centenary, and there were theatrical productions by the mobile 'Century Theatre'. Eventually I made my way back into town where I called for a couple of pints of Theakston's bitter at 1.60 a pint - another expensive tourist area. I sat down at a table and overheard, along with half of the other people in the bar, a couple who were having an argument for some time before eventually leaving, much to the amusement of everyone around.

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Day 8 - Saturday 27th May: Keswick to Borrowdale via Dale Head

Distance: 15.6 miles, Ascent: 4600 ft

Accommodation: Longthwaite Y.H.A. - 13.90 Dinner B&B

I had one of the best night's sleep so far on a bunk which neither creaked nor sagged. The weather was quite bad with steady rain and low cloud, but the forecast was for drier weather later. I was rather slow getting started, as I wanted to see if the rain would stop. This section of the walk was another one that I had split into two days to help with the extra distance to and from Keswick Youth Hostel. The first day of the two was quite strenuous, going over Cat Bells, High Spy, Dale Head, Hindscarth and Robinson, returning via Dale Head to Borrowdale. The second day was a much shorter and easier walk via Watendlath Tarn and Walla Crag, back to Keswick. If necessary, I could reverse the two walks to do the low-level walk in the bad weather and hope for better weather the next day.

I went down to the local Co-op to shop for lunches, calling at the Post Office on the way to buy some more stamps. There was rather a slow queue in the Post Office, so I decided to do my other shopping first and return on my way back. When I called in again, the service was still very slow. Whilst I was waiting, an irate man at the other counter was complaining that when he obtained some French francs from them, he had been given some 1000-franc notes. The problem was that they were 1948 notes from before the time when they changed the currency to make one new franc equal 1000 old francs. The man was not very happy, especially when the counter clerk didn't seem to treat the matter very seriously. I got fed up with waiting again and went into a newsagent's shop, where I was served straight away.

Back at the hostel, I sorted out a number of things that I could manage without for the next couple of days and left them with the warden, as there seemed no point in carrying any more than necessary. Eventually I set off at just after 10 a.m. and decided to stick to my original route as, even though it was still raining a bit, there did seem to be a few breaks in the clouds. The first few miles of the walk were more or less flat until the ascent of Cat Bells, which has a steep ascent made easier by a well made zigzag path. There were some excellent views of Derwent Water from there despite the rather poor weather. On the way I met a couple who recognised me from the pub on the previous night and they joked about the couple who had been arguing. The walk further along the ridge was quite easy, as the ascent was reasonably gradual. A slight detour over to the left gave a very dramatic view of Borrowdale with a wild atmosphere created by the heavy clouds and patches of sunshine breaking through.

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Skiddaw and Blencathra from Hindscarth Edge
Skiddaw from Hindscarth Edge

After the descent to Dalehead Tarn my plan was to leave my rucksack there whilst I climbed over Dale Head to Hindscarth and Robinson and back again - a walk of about six miles, with quite a lot of ascent. Before leaving it, however, I took the precaution of leaving a note on it saying "Gone to Summit - Returning Shortly". This was just in case anyone wondered what it was doing there, as had happened three years ago on the Coast to Coast walk, when someone ended up taking my rucksack to Keswick Police Station.

Without a pack the walking, and particularly the climbing, was so much easier and I was able to make good progress. There were some more dramatic views from time to time with the weather and lighting conditions changing by the minute as the clouds raced by overhead and patches of sunlight suddenly highlighted parts of the scene. At times, it was difficult to stand up in the strong wind as it whistled round the fells. Each of the three fells had its own particularly good view over different parts of the area. The showers of rain were not particularly troublesome as they were interspersed with brighter spells which, combined with the strong wind, soon dried things out again. I started out from Dalehead Tarn at 2.10 p.m. and got back at 4.50 p.m., having had one or two short stops at some of the good viewpoints. After a short rest, I made my way down to Longthwaite Youth Hostel in Borrowdale. The descent was rather steep at first past the old quarries but was then followed by a walk through woods in the valley to the hostel where I arrived at 6 p.m.

When I was booking in, the girl at reception said that there was another Mr. Tod booked in for two nights with the same, unusual spelling of surname. There are not all that many Tod's in the country so I was curious as to whether he was a relative. However, I never met up with him so I will never know. When I went into the dining room I met the chap from Gloucester who had been in Elterwater hostel - it certainly is a small world when you are hostelling around the Lake District. There was also a school party in there so there was quite a lot of noise during dinner, which consisted of soup, sausage apple and onion bake and treacle sponge. The school party was actually quite well behaved; it is just that the volume level of chatter gets higher and higher as everyone tries to talk above everyone else.

The payphone in the hostel was broken with a sign indicating that there were public telephones in Rosthwaite, Stonethwaite and Seatoller. The nearest was Rosthwaite at just over half a mile and, as that also boasted a pub, I decided to make my way there. When I arrived at the telephone box there was already a queue of three or four, and more rolled up quickly behind - it then started to rain. The telephone was just by the entrance to the ladies' toilets so some of us took shelter in the doorway (any comments about it being the Ladies' being rejected as sexist). The first chap on the telephone took ages as he had got someone to ring him back. There was grumbling and murmuring from everyone and some talk of forming a lynch mob, but he eventually came out saying, "Don't ever have a mother!" so he was quickly forgiven. A girl behind me in the queue was getting very impatient as she had got a drink in the pub and had ordered a meal, so she was trying to ration everyone to short calls. What didn't help was the BT bargain weekend call rates, which meant that even 10 pence lasted for quite a while, and some people were putting in 50 pence. When it was my turn I did the decent thing; made a very quick call and then went to the pub.

Despite the fact that the bar was very extensive, it was a squeeze to get in there, although I did manage to get served quite quickly. I was sure that the barman had said 1.74 and then rung up 1.54, so I called him back to complain, thinking that I was being ripped off, only to find that I had been given the correct change for 1.54, so I had to walk away rather sheepishly. I managed to find a tiny bit of standing room next to a couple of chaps from the hostel who had been in the telephone queue. After drinking my pint, I headed off back to the hostel and the other two did the same shortly afterwards, as there was no pleasure in drinking in those overcrowded conditions - I suppose it is only to be expected on a Bank Holiday weekend. There were still a few people queuing for the telephone as I went past, although none of the earlier ones were still there. I had taken my waterproof jacket but not my over-trousers and I had trainers on my feet. On the way back the heavens opened and my trousers and feet got soaked. I suppose that one has to expect this in a place that boasts of having the highest rainfall in Great Britain. At the head of Borrowdale, Styhead Tarn has an average of 173 inches of rain a year, and in the year of 1954, Sprinkling Tarn had 257 inches).

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