Hills: Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell
Stone circles: Castlerigg
Who: Cast of thousands… well 6 anyway; self, Stuart and 4 mates.
When: Saturday 14 March
Unfortunately present: Bog: unexpected minor scrambly bit; wind (I mean the natural sort produced by weather, not the sort produced by too many baked beans at breakfast!)
Unexpectedly present: Liam
Post walk drink: Merlot and real ale (not in the same glass!)
Finally – after way too long – this report gets the Wainwright walks up to date… at least until the next visit to the Lake District. This report follows on from our ascent of Wansfell the previous day which had seen me, Stuart and Sacha tackle a horrendous bog en route to the true summit which I suspect anyone except Wainwright baggers doesn’t bother with. Of course, I am not actually trying to do all the Wainwrights, or so I keep telling myself, but if the true top of something is within easy reach I am blooming well going to go and tag it… maybe I should blame it on being an auditor and therefore having an inherent mentality which requires ticking things. (A less insulting concept than once being referred to as a ‘glorified abacus’).
This walk was a momentous occasion because we were introducing our friends Kat and Andrew to the joys of hill walking, no doubt after hearing us bang on about it once too often. It was therefore arranged that they would join us on the walking group meet in Keswick and I hit the maps to try and work out a suitable route which would be (a) reasonably straightforward, (b) have decent views, (c) not involve any snow and (d) hopefully not involve any major bog. This was more of an ask than might be expected, given the recent snowfall, and my initial thoughts of doing Blencathra had to be binned as a result. We also needed a walk which could be reached by public transport as it is simply not possible to fit 5 people in my Mini, certainly not with the addition of walking gear.
In the end, we settled on a plan of getting the bus along Borrowdale, getting off near the independent hostel then walking up to Ashness Bridge. From there we would cut across on what looked like a clear path back across the hill to Walla Crag. We could then, if we wanted to, double back a bit up Bleaberry Fell and finally drop back down to Keswick on foot via Castlerigg stone circle, a place I have been to loads of times but always like to visit and also one which Kat and Andrew were keen to see. We had 2 maps so there was the option if necessary for breaking into 2 groups at Walla Crag.
Amazingly things more or less went to plan although there was a bit of a rugby scrum to get on the bus, it is clearly a popular way to access the hills in the area. The bus ride was pretty brief and before too long we were off the bus and looking back at lovely views over Derwentwater. There was a brief plod on tarmac up to the rather nice little Ashness Bridge… and the sight of our mate Liam sitting on a rock reading a book. We had told him what we planned to do as he was driving up to Scotland and had said he might want to break the journey, but hadn’t had any confirmation. So now we were 6 and set off up what looked like a brilliant path that angled back in the direction of Keswick.
To start off with the path was great. Indeed for most of the way it was great but there is a short steep bit where there is a very mild scramble up a rock step – I think maybe a bit of the path might have fallen away. After a bit of cursing from some of the party though this was soon surmounted and after that the path rises up at a reasonably easy angle. We got some great views back along Derwentwater and were simply able to enjoy the walk along to Walla Crag, where we climbed a stile and were shortly posing at the cairn to celebrate Kat and Andrew’s first Wainwright. Lovely views from the top, and another confirmation that little hills can often have big views. Some summit malt was produced to celebrate and we had a brief break, the weather seemed to be holding and we were in no rush.
After sitting around for a bit looking at the views and taking photos – Stuart once again posing as Wainwright’s long lost Scottish descendant in his flat cap – it was decision time as half the party were keen to go on and do another hill and half were less bothered. In the end Stuart, Sacha and Kat descended back towards Castlerigg with one map and Andrew, Liam and me doubled back towards Bleaberry Fell with the other. One of the hazards, or is it benefits, of being a map addict is I have a lot of duplicate maps – in this case both the OS and Harveys map of the area. (I tend to prefer Harveys maps now I have got my brain round the contours being different from OS).
It was time for the inevitable bog to make an appearance! One of the things I have been called in my hill walking career to date is Bogfinder General. I have an unerring ability to find bog even on routes that are not supposed to be boggy. And the double back from Walla Crag to Bleaberry Fell involved crossing a particularly glutinous patch of bog which involved much dodging to and fro trying to avoid the worst bits. Thank goodness we had binned any idea of extending the walk to High Seat, largely because I had read this was one of the boggiest parts of the Lake District. They aren’t joking! Fortunately, the bog-fest turns after about 15 minutes into a great constructed path which angles fairly easily up the side of Bleaberry Fell. It then looks like a very steep pull up the final 100m or so to the summit – and is – but a constructed stone staircase has been put in place which makes the ascent easier, although the stone steps were slippy as hell on the way down. Before too long we were on the top, my 36th Wainwright, Andrew’s second and I’ve no idea how many Liam has done (he isn’t a bagger, so probably doesn’t know himself!).
It was absolutely Baltic at the top, so despite good views we decided not to hang about too long, and dropped back down the constructed staircase and retraced our steps. We had also had a text which Andrew announced as ‘the least surprising text ever’ that the others were in a pub already! Liam headed off back to the car, and Andrew and I more or less doubled back to Walla Crag then took the path leading off towards Castlerigg, a steepish descent but on a decent path most of the way with only one boggy bit to cross.
We spent a bit of time pottering about at the stone circle, then headed off into Keswick on the minor road, joining the others in the Twa Dogs bar on the main road into Keswick (one of the few pubs in Keswick we hadn’t been to before) for the initial post walk drink, before heading into town to meet up with the others from the group in the evening.
Again, not a classic walk but a thoroughly enjoyable day with plenty of interest. Though given my Bogfinder General status, I suspect I will be leaving High Seat etc either for heavy frost or after a seriously dry spell. I suspect waders or (better) a James Bond mini-sub would still be useful!